January 22, 2022

Beat Schermerhorn

Home Improvement

Strange things reported stolen in Canada in 2021

We’ve been chronicling the strangest items reported stolen to Canadian police agencies for a few years now.

This feature started out strong in 2018, with a taxidermied duckling kicking off a list that also included a corpse, a rare eagle named Riff-Raff, and more than $150,000 worth of beer.

Somehow, the 2019 edition managed to meet that high bar, featuring as it did the likes of a fencing mask signed by the cast of a beloved movie, beach sand, and a dunk tank.

COVID-19 couldn’t even stop the weird thieves of Canada from plying their trade, as evidenced by last year’s list, which contained part of a famous bobsled, a playground slide and a mascot costume, among other peculiar items.

Surely there can’t be much left. Surely at some point we must run out of fertile ground for these bandits.

That may well be the case in the future, but it most definitely was not in 2021. In fact, one could argue that fertile ground itself was pinched this year.

Read on to learn about the stolen items that perplexed us the most over the past 12 months.

LOTS AND LOTS OF LUMBER

For a few weeks this spring, it felt like wood was the most valuable item in the world.

With so many of us coping with spending a second year mostly at home by planning major home improvement projects, and the pandemic prompting production cuts at some facilities, it’s no surprise that lumber prices shot through the roof – nor that some ne’er-do-wells schemed to take advantage of the suddenly hot commodity.

From British Columbia to Newfoundland, it felt like no part of the country was immune from the wave of lumber thefts. One heist outside Calgary netted more than $80,000 worth of wood, while a suspect in Saskatoon told police he was building a deck but seemed noticeably iffy on the details.

As spring turned to summer, though, wood prices began to trend downward and the great lumber crisis of 2021 came to an end.

ALSO, HAY

Much like lumber, hay became a precious commodity this year due to significant external forces.

For much of 2021, farmers and ranches in the West have struggled to secure enough feed for their crops, thanks to last summer’s drought.

When feed is so hard to come by even for those who grow hay, it’s that much harder for organizations like the SPCA to get what they need to care for their animals.

The Alberta government had agreed to donate 70 bales – $10,000 or so worth of hay – to the SPCA, but it was illegally cut and baled before that could happen.

AIRPODS FROM THE PAPER CLIP CHALLENGE

Remember Kyle MacDonald? More than a decade ago, the blogging Saskatchewanian traded his way up from one red paper clip to a two-storey home.

MacDonald’s story still draws awe from around the world – including recently from a young boy in his own province. Ten-year-old Thomas Ballantyne was trying to emulate MacDonald’s journey, bartering a paper clip of his own into a PlayStation 5.

Partway through that journey, though, he hit an unexpected roadblock. In February, somebody snatched the headphones that he’d managed to acquire en route to the gaming system.

Unlike most of the stories we’re sharing here, Ballantyne’s has a happy ending. Within days, he received new headphones and much more from strangers who were saddened by his tale.

DUDE CHILLING PARK SIGN

It’s not unusual for road signs to be stolen. Not even when they’re the sort of signs that warn everyone around them to stop or to stay off the property.

Street signs, too, can disappear – just ask the people of Sicamous, B.C. how difficult it became to spot Old Town Road after a certain Lil Nas X ditty topped the charts a couple years back.

But a sign that only contains the name of a park?

That’s what happened in Vancouver in February, when somebody absconded with the sign labelling Dude Chilling Park.

It wasn’t the first time that had happened, somewhat understandably so – that isn’t even the real name of the park, for whatever reason – and once again, the city forked out $1,300 to put up a new sign.

STATUES ET CETERA

Have you ever driven by a stranger’s house and marvelled at their extravagant lawn ornaments?

Every so often, somebody decides that marvelling isn’t enough and they must have the decorations for themselves, even if they have to break the law to do it.

In April, a $10,000 unicorn statue was stolen from a business in Delia, Alta., and later found in a field 15 kilometres away with its horn broken. In October, police in Simcoe, Ont. asked the public for help solving a series of garden gnome thefts.

Those were hardly the only heists in which lawn ornaments were spirited away by scofflaws this year. Others included a dinosaur statue that was part of the 1986 World Exposition, Charlie Brown and his friends, and metre-tall lions from outside a house in Calgary.

In that last case, the statues were recovered and returned to their owners, who plan to keep them in the backyard from now on.

A HUGE WINDMILL, BUT NOT REALLY

We could have included the theft of a giant windmill from rural Saskatchewan in the previous entry, if not for one thing: it wasn’t actually stolen.

The 12.5-metre-tall windmill most definitely did disappear from a property near Vibank, Sask. in mid-May.

A few weeks later, however, the RCMP revealed that what had happened was less of a theft and more of a misunderstanding.

THE FARM ANIMALS OF SOUTHERN ONTARIO

It’s a sorry fact of life that animals aren’t immune from the clutches of bandits.

Plenty of animal thefts crossed our desk this year, including one we’ll get to later. For now, we’ll tell you about a trifecta of crimes involving farm animals that were picked up with sinister intent.

First up is a baby goat named Juniper, who was stolen from Toronto’s Riverdale Farm in May, even as her identical twin sibling was left alone in the same pen.

A few weeks later, seven beagles were dognapped from a property in Lakeshore, Ont. Five of the seven have since been retrieved, including one who had just given birth to seven puppies of her own.

In August, meanwhile, a baby miniature donkey named Sebastian was nabbed from a farm in Halton Hills, Ont.

VEHICLES IN BUSINESS, AND NOT

This year did not get off to a good start for a pizza delivery driver in Vanastra, Ont. On Jan. 2, he left his engine running while making a drop-off, giving a thief just enough time to nab the vehicle.

Three months later, a city bus driver in Calgary lost their wheels in the same manner. Stepping off their bus to seek help for a passed-out passenger, the driver was startled to realize the passenger had awoken and taken the wheel.

It’s unlikely that a golf cart was in service in late January, when it was nabbed from a school in Oakville, Ont. – but we thought it was still worth mentioning, because the thief ended up taking it for a ride on a busy highway.

A PORPOISE SKULL

Plenty of porpoises call the Salish Sea home, so it’s probably no surprise that they’re a big part of the curriculum at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea in Sidney, B.C.

Until early this year, the porpoise-related educational offerings at that aquarium included an authentic skull that was found in the water some 25 years ago.

Somehow, though, somebody was able to make off with the skull – using an innocent porpoise for a relatively nefarious purpose.

HEIRLOOM SWORDS

In September, the RCMP in North Vancouver, B.C. alerted the public to a theft of several unusual heirlooms.

They reported that three “replica samurai swords” and one “distinctive carved walking stick” had been boosted from a home.

A photograph of the collection showed that the stick was indeed distinctive – or at least brightly coloured – and that the swords all appeared to have dragon-head-shaped-handles.

A HAWK, PROBABLY

There’s no concrete proof that Arsenal the hawk was actually stolen from its central Ontario home in January, but its owner says it’s the most likely scenario.

As Devon Black explained it to CTV News Barrie, his girlfriend put the seven-month-old ferruginous hawk out front on its leash. A few hours later when they went to check on it, Arsenal had disappeared.

Human footprints were found in the snow, blazing a path from Arsenal’s perch to a nearby trail.

That was enough evidence for police in Ramara, Ont. to treat the hawk’s disappearance as a theft — and if it’s good enough for them, who are we to argue?

GOTTA CATCH ‘EM ALL

Here’s the story of two similar crimes, a few days apart, at opposite ends of the country.

On Jan. 30, somebody threw a rock through a games store in Halifax and went straight for the Pokemon cards.

Three days later in New Westminster, B.C., somebody used what police described as a “curved sword” to get away with a bagful of Magic: The Gathering cards from a store there.

While the haul in both cases may seem like child’s play, collectible trading cards can be big business. The owner of the Halifax store estimated that the cards stolen from him were worth between $5,000 and $7,000.

A CHURCH BELL

With trading cards, at least, one can think of a few places a thief could hide their haul. That’s not the case with this item.

A bell disappeared from a Ukrainian Catholic Church in Hay Lakes, Alta. in July.

More specifically, it was a copper bell – a few feet high, 225 kilograms heavy, and engraved with the lettering “shawaga.’

How has the thief managed to keep that one quiet, we wonder?

A BARBERSHOP POLE

For decades, Black Comb Barbershop in St. Thomas, Ont. has been identifiable from the street by its distinctive pole.

You know the type. Red and white and blue, a series of chevrons painted atop each other. This one happens to say ‘look better’ at the top and bottom.

Sometime on the night of March 15, the pole vanished from outside the barbershop.

The store’s owner, Gregory Dennis, told CTV News London that losing it left his business “like a marina without a lighthouse.”