A group of bow hunters tracking elk stumbled upon the brightly colored steel animal, researched it based on the artist’s signature etched into the surface, and called authorities Tuesday night, according to Summit County sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Bridge.
Deputies hiked up to the remote area – located about 50 miles outside of Park City and at about 9,000 feet elevation – and recovered the scattered lion pieces the following day, Bridge said.
Santa Fe-based artist Fredrick Prescott said he couldn’t believe he’d be reunited with his creation, which disappeared from the Park City Kimball Arts Festival before dawn one August day last year in a heist that received local media coverage at the time.
This week, deputies sent him pictures of the 300-pound lion with its orange head and three of its yellow legs carefully sawn off.
“They had killed the lion,” Prescott said Thursday. “We can rebuild it, but it was really sad to see that.”
The sculpture is worth about $15,000 and is part of a steel menagerie that Prescott takes on tour. At about six feet long and three feet tall, it’s the smaller of two lions he has in the collection.
“Maybe they could sell it for scrap,” Prescott said, “but it’s not worth going to jail.”
He said it’s the third time a sculpture has been stolen from the affluent area famous for its ski resorts. Counting this week’s find, he’s recovered two of them.
“It’s weird this would all happen in Park City,” Prescott said.
The lion has been out in the elements for so long that it’ll be impossible to gather fingerprint evidence and trace the culprits, Bridge said. A sheet found with the artwork is too disintegrated to add much to the case, he added.
The sculpture is now in the custody of the Park City Police Department.