Clarksville's mystery of the missing cougar

Mascot sculpture outside elementary school is stolen

police have no solid leads


The cougar didn't leave any paw prints, just an imprint on the mulch where it used to sit in front of Clarksville Elementary School.

The Blue Ribbon school's beloved mascot -- a life-size sculpture commissioned by the fifth-grade Class of 2003 -- was stolen this month, leaving pupils and teachers baffled.

"It's a sad story," Principal Brad Herling said yesterday.

Who would take the approximately 275-pound concrete sculpture that was chained to a bench at the entrance of the school?

"Maybe some people who were against mascots and who thought it would be cool to see a school worry," said Emily Rabinowitz, 8, a third-grader.

The Howard County Police Department has no solid leads and has closed the case for now, said Pfc. Jennifer Reidy, a police spokeswoman.

"We're certainly encouraging anyone who knows anything about it to call us," Reidy said. "It's a very heavy statute. Someone's got to know who took it or where it is."

She added: "Even if it's a practical joke, the lifespan of the joke is over. Forget that. You've had it for three weeks. Bring it back."

A fixture at the school for two years, the sculpture was in place Sept. 30. But when students, teachers and administrators returned Monday, it had vanished.

Terri Taylor, a parent volunteer at the school, noticed the mascot was missing that morning and reported it to Assistant Principal Amy Green. School administrators informed police.

The only thing that remains now is a sign that reads, "Please do not climb on me, Cougar."

"When we put it in two years ago, we honestly expected something to happen to it," said Taylor, whose fifth-grade daughter attends Clarksville. "It lasted this long."

The cougar statue was a gift of the Class of 2003, which commissioned wildlife sculptor John P. Kennedy of Delphi Falls, N.Y., to create the life-size figure -- a medium-size male creature about 54 inches long, he said.

When told that the sculpture was stolen, Kennedy said, "That's too bad. Geez.

"I hope they find it," he said, noting that pupils paid about $700.

Pupils, teachers and parents have at least one theory for the theft. Could it have been a prank gone wrong? It was homecoming weekend for River Hill High School, which is adjacent to Clarksville Elementary on Route 108.

Green said she could not say if the theft was related to homecoming or because the school has been in the news recently for its national Blue Ribbon award.

"We haven't gotten any ransom notes yet," Green said, half-jokingly. "Or pictures of it at the Effel Tower, yet."

Pupils are upset about the loss.

"The kids are saying, `Where is our cougar? Where is our cougar?'" Green said. "They do miss it. They're disappointed that the cougar is not back yet."

Jennifer Shin, 10, a fifth-grader, said seeing the mascot was a daily routine for her.

"It was like a person because it was there for a long time," Jennifer said. "It's part of the school; without the cougar, it doesn't feel like the school anymore.

"I wish the person who took it would return it," she added. "I don't get why they took it."

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