Bernie the Bear kidnapped, reward offered for his return

Bernie the Bear (Photos courtesy of New Bern Police Department)

NEW BERN, Craven County - The unbearable has happened in New Bern: One of the town's iconic bear statues has been bear-napped from in front of a local business.

The missing bear, dubbed Bernie, weighs nearly 400 pounds and stands nearly 6 feet tall, and has stood in downtown New Bern for more than three decades. Yet, Bernie was swiped Friday night from his normal resting place near the Bern Bear Gift Shop at the corner of Pollock and Craven streets and police are searching for clues.

Bear owner John Sturman is offering a reward for the bear's safe return home.

"I found out it was missing Friday night from the police doing a walk around," Sturman said. "(The officer) didn't say much back then because he figured I had taken it to get it worked one or repainted but then in the morning he noticed it still wasn't there and he came and asked about it. ... It's not supposed to be away. He belongs right out in front."

The last time a bear statue was stolen in New Bern was in December 2015. "Barrister Bear" was stolen from in front of a local law firm and destroyed by a pair of West Craven High School students.

Sturman said this isn't the first time Bernie has gone missing. He says two Marines, after a night of partying, took Bernie for a ride. Sturman said he forgave those men and hopes Bernie will be returned safe and sound this time as well.

Bernie cannot be recreated because the artist who chiseled him from cypress wood using a chainsaw - Tom Penny - has since died.

Anyone with information about who may have taken Bernie is encouraged to call (252) 633-2020.