Be on the Lookout for a 30,000-Year-Old Cave Hyena Skull

It was stolen March 14 from the Northwest 23rd Avenue location of taxidermy and curiosity shop Paxton Gate.

Cave hyena skull. (Courtesy of Paxton Gate.)

Over the years, Portland has seen its share of precious items stolen. The city’s only bookmobile. Four show terriers. John Wayne’s gun.

Add another to the list: a 30,000-year-old cave hyena skull.

Early Tuesday morning, a man broke out the front window of the Northwest 23rd Avenue location of taxidermy and curiosity shop Paxton Gate. He emptied the jewelry cases, says Paxton Gate co-owner Andy Brown, then made a beeline for the back of the store, where the fossilized skull from Siberia was displayed.

Brown says the security footage indicates the burglar came with the skull on his mind. “He wanted that,” Brown says. “He did grab that for a reason. Whether for himself or to sell it, who knows?”

Unlike, say, catalytic converters, a cave hyena skull is difficult to fence. Brown says he and co-owner Susan Brown have contacted the gem and fossil shows where they commonly do business, telling them to be on the lookout for the item. The couple also sent out word to Paxton Gate customers on social media.

The Browns operate two Paxton Gate stores, one of North Mississippi Avenue and the other on Northwest 23rd Avenue, each selling a menagerie of trophy mounts, skeletons and butterflies. The Mississippi location was burglarized twice in 2021, but the Nob Hill shop had never suffered a break-in until this week. (“It’s a lovely neighborhood,” says Susan Brown.)

Andy Brown says he’s happy with police response—an officer arrived within three minutes of a call—but wishes City Hall would devise a strategy to discourage break-ins.

“We need more support for small business in Portland,” he says. “Everybody is getting robbed over and over again.”

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