The mystery of the missing turtle and hare has been solved – at least in part.

Portland police have recovered the stuffed snowshoe hare and pond turtle that had been stolen from the pickup truck of a Maine Audubon instructor. The exhibits were part of the society’s collection and are used in educational programs. A separate pelt of a red fox that was stolen at the same time was not recovered.

The exhibits were recovered in the same 25 Pearl St. parking garage where they first went missing, police Lt. James Sweatt said. Employees at the parking garage found them at 9 a.m. Monday behind a railing on the Pearl Street side of the building, covered by snow and frozen to the ground. The items were undamaged, he said.

It’s not clear whether the items were placed there at the same time they were taken, whether the thief returned them to the garage later, or whether the thief left them there with the intention of retrieving the items later. Police did not search the area when the burglary took place because it was reported by telephone after the owner of the pickup had already left the garage.

The exhibits had little resale value but would have been expensive to replace, Maine Audubon officials said. Both the taxidermy and the Plexiglas boxes that protect the animals are costly, making the items worth several hundred dollars at least to the conservation organization.

Police say nobody has yet been charged in the theft. Police reunited the items with Maine Audubon.

The instructor, who lives in Portland, had left the exhibit items in the back seat of her Ford pickup because they had been on display at the Home Energy Fair Jan. 24. They were stolen the following day, even though they had been covered by a blanket.

Audubon’s scientific collection, which is on display at its headquarters in Falmouth, is composed of preserved mammals, birds and reptiles that were found dead in the wild or on a roadside, as well as pelts and other parts of animals.

The theft was one high-profile example of an increase in the number of car burglaries taking place in parking garages in the past few weeks.

Portland police reported 37 car burglaries in the month of January, many of them inside public parking garages, which they attributed to more people parking under cover because of parking bans and to avoid the snowy weather. Police said the burglaries have continued, including at least seven at the garage at 315 Cumberland Ave., at the corner of Preble Street.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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