VALRICO — Bloomingdale High School's 400-pound bronze statue of a bull proved to be hard for the thieves to corral.
Something that big and shiny is tough to hide.
The good news is that, after vanishing over the weekend, the raging bull that embodies the spirit of Bloomingdale is back where he belongs.
Of course, the school's mascot has been a target before, said principal Mark West. But that generally involved being coated with spray paint and graffiti, courtesy of students from rival schools.
The snorting bull, so firmly bolted to concrete on the school's patio, has never been stolen. And students usually pull pranks during the school year. So this seemed like something more sinister. Even so, West called the principals at nearby schools.
Deputies knew it could just as easily be adults looking to make money from the bronze as mischievous high school students, Sheriff's Office spokesman J.D. Callaway said.
Around 7 p.m. Wednesday, they got a tip, and paid a visit to a semitrailer storage yard at 1922 N 59th St. There, he said, hidden about 25 yards back, deputies spotted the bronze beast.
They called a wrecker, loaded up the bull, and returned it to the school. The criminal investigation is still under way.
There's no way to know at this point if the bull was headed for the last roundup in a furnace. It depends upon who took it, and they don't know, but have some leads, Callaway said.
"Obviously, scrapping metal has become a cash commodity for some people."
Thieves usually steal copper, he said. He hasn't heard of any cases of bronze theft in Hillsborough County. In Largo, however, a 400-pound bronze statue of two kids hoisting an American flag was stolen, and in Clearwater, a bronze plaque was removed from Glenn Oaks Park.
Bloomingdale's bull cost about $8,000. Students spent two years fundraising to buy the custom-made statue, finally placing it on the patio in 2006.
"It's become an important part of our school," West said.
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2443.