Thieves making off with small animal statues from Seattle park

SEATTLE -- Thieves are making-off with small bronze animal statues from a Seattle park that have delighted children for years.

From atop small boulders, or under shrubs and bushes, a collection of ornate metal animals keeps watch over Ravenna Park. The artworks have been in place since 2008, but have been disappearing over the past few days.

"I saw a little stub of rebar I guess it is, sticking out of one of the rocks," said Joel Robinson.

The bases of some statues look sliced-clean. Four figures have vanished, including two pikas, a deer mouse, and a mourning dove.

Neighbors say it's the children who lose the most.

"They always look at the statues," said Leslie Barban. "And they can't read the words but I can read it to them so they know this is the natural habitat of the animals that are displayed here. So it's really sad that they're gone."

Joel Robinson says the bronze statues are more than beautiful, they've also inspired his young son.

"That's where he's learned a lot of words off the birds and the snake," Robinson said. "He can identify them all."

The metal critters joined the park as part of an effort by neighbors to enhance the playground. An artist cast the sculptures, which were then carefully placed around the park, giving children something exciting to discover.

"It helps the boys know there are animals that are smaller than they are," Barban said. "Watch where you walk. Look around. It's just a shame."

The thefts have neighbors wondering what can be done to protect the statues that still remain. The Seattle Parks Department says its options there are limited, but they are working with the artist who still has the molds.

"We're starting to have discussions about how we can recreate them, possibly in a different material -- one that's a little less desirable to be stolen," said Joelle Hammerstad.

The bronze sells for about $3 a pound, but parks officials say the statues are so small, they doubt they were stolen for scrap metal.