WILLIAMSTOWN - A carved bear statue, which greeted visitors to Williamstown for years, has gone missing.
Officials said the more-than five-foot-tall carving was reported stolen this week. Police are unsure when the bear was taken and are still investigating.
According to a police report, the Wood County Sheriff's Office was contacted Tuesday by David Ferguson, who has a chainsaw sculpture business near Parkersburg. Ferguson donated the bear to the state Department of Highways about four years ago, he said.
The sculpture weighed about 150 pounds and sat next to the northbound Interstate 77 exit ramp in Williamstown. Ferguson said the bear held an American flag in one paw and a "welcome" sign in the other.
"People have told me it was a very nice carving," he said. "I had tourists tell me they knew where they were as soon as they saw the bear. They used it as a landmark."
Ferguson said he realized the wood sculpture was missing when he drove through the area Sunday. He contacted WVDOH officials Tuesday who confirmed they had not removed the bear.
"Someone stole it," Ferguson said.
Officials said it is unclear when the sculpture was taken. Ferguson said he had seen it in early September but doesn't remember whether it was there afterward. Officials placed the date of the theft between Sept. 9 and Oct. 9.
Ferguson estimated the value of the bear around $600 and said he is still hopeful the sculpture will be found or returned.