The Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Society is picking up the pieces after thieves broke into their Stave Lake building in the dead of night two weeks ago and made off with equipment and paraphernalia.
The estimated $3,000 in damage and theft has hit the registered society especially hard.
“I don’t know what they were thinking,” society chairwoman Joe-Anne Chadwick said, frustrated at the damage and seemingly vindictive choice of stolen items.
While thieves took the expensive viewing scopes, binoculars and walkie-talkies, they also made off with items of little to no resale value. Things like a petty cash box with no cash in it, four wooden plaques carved by local First Nations, 53 branded bald eagle festival hats, and one Robert Bateman youth large bald eagle festival T-shirt.
And although the hats have little resale value they weren’t cheap either, since the inventory they buy remains true to the environmentally-friendly and organic mandate of the organization.
There were gifts from local businesses taken as well, which Chadwick says is upsetting because it’s awkward to ask those businesses to re-donate.
And although the festival is insured, Chadwick said the deductible is $3,000. As a charity, the deductible is that high in order to keep monthly premiums down.
It’s believed the thieves sneaked onto the private property and tried the front door before going to the back and prying the wooden door open with a tire iron.
The next bald eagle festival is Nov. 19-20, which means much of the preparation work will have to be re-started, including soliciting donations from businesses and taking money budgeted for other areas to purchase new equipment.
“The viewing scopes are huge for us because that’s one of the main reasons people come out there. So that is priority one.”
Some of the stolen items have been slowly acquired over the past 16 years with donations and scrimping and saving.
The cleanup from the break-in was extensive as well, with one volunteer spending 14 hours counting inventory and calculating what was stolen to report to the RCMP. Chadwick said it’s important to note that not a single person working for the society makes any money, so all that time spent cleaning up was pure volunteerism.
Sharie Conroy, society vice-chair, said an alarm system is now being installed, but urged the thieves to consider returning the property.
“Just return the goods at the door of the [Mission Regional] Chamber at night. It’s hard for non-profits, and to do this, it’s pretty low,” she said.
Anybody with information about the burglary or who may have spotted some of the stolen items are encouraged to contact the RCMP at 604-826-7161.