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Who took dozens of animal furs, and why?

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It's one "hairy" situation, which could be described as a "furglary," that now has thieves trying to "hide."

Two recent burglaries have left the owners of a Custer fur shop and a Hot Springs museum wondering why someone would break into their establishments and mainly target animal furs and hides.

On Easter Sunday, the owner of the Claw, Antler & Hide Co. shop in Custer discovered that someone had quite cleanly broken in through a roof skylight and stolen $35,000 worth of furs and hides. The next day, officials with the Pioneer Museum in Hot Springs also discovered that someone had entered through a boarded up window and stolen two animal skin coats and some other historic items.

In both cases, there was minimal damage to the buildings, and many other items were left behind in favor of the furs. The commonalities between the two events are leaving the shop owners, museum president and Hot Springs police suspicious that they may be connected.

"We're not 100 percent, but I believe they could be related," said Hot Springs Police Capt. Justin Hayne.

Gary Gruber, co-owner of Claw, Antler & Hide Co. is aghast that someone unscrewed the skylight and then made off with about 100 bear, fox and otter hides while ignoring thousands of dollars worth of antler carvings.

"They knew exactly where to go in the store," said Gruber, who is insured. "I mean, I really had nice stuff in the store that they didn't touch."

Many customers come to the store for something symbolic of the Black Hills, such as a buffalo hide to decorate their home, he said. The way the burglars broke into the shop makes him think they had to be in there prior to know the layout.

The stolen items range from $4,800 worth of buffalo hides to an $85 black bear skull. The list includes some rare hides, such as 21 badger hides, 15 skunk hides with feet, 20 mink hides, two lynx hides, two white arctic fox hats and six silver fox hides.

"Obviously they have a market for it, kinda like me," he said. "The furs you can just cram them into a vehicle. It's easy, you don't have to worry about breaking anything."

Within a day, someone at the Pioneer Museum told Gruber's wife, Janice, that someone also broke into their building. So far, museum President Carol Sides said she knows a bear skin coat, coonskin coat, some military uniforms, swords and other smaller items were taken.

All were only on display in two rooms. "They knew what they were taking," she said.

Where the loot could turn up next remains to be seen. Gruber is hoping since these are specialty items, it might give him a better chance to recover some items or find the thieves if his furs end up on eBay or in a nearby pawn shop.

The road to restock the shop will be long, because getting replacement furs is tricky. It takes months to properly prepare furs at a tannery before they can be sold, he said. The next time they can replace some of the merchandise is next April.

In the wake of the burglary, they have since installed security cameras. In the meantime, both he and Sides are hopeful the public might come forward with any information.

Gruber said he is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction in the case. "Even if I don’t get my stuff back, I don’t want to worry about having this happen again. It’s worth 1,000 bucks to me if I can get him."

Contact Meredith Colias as 394-8417 or

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Related to this story

The Claw, Antler & Hide Co. had more than $35,000 worth of furs, hides, antlers and other merchandise stolen from it on Easter Sunday.

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