When the Great Valley Museum moves this spring from its current location at the corner of Stoddard and College to its new home on Modesto Junior College's West Campus, some of the exotic animals currently on display will go into storage.
It won't be because of lack of space, since the new building will dwarf the small quarters the museum now occupies. The reason is that many of the animals are not indigenous to the Central Valley and their places will be taken by many more examples of local wildlife.
Local businessman and avid hunter Maurits Osterberg donated the collection to the museum in 1972. Originally, the museum had no place to hold the collection, so Osterberg allowed visitors to view it at his home and sometimes, such as in the March 14, 1972, Modesto Bee, the collection was used as a backdrop for a Roos/Atkins spring fashion shoot. In 1991, the collection was brought to the museum and put on display.
The collection has animals from Africa, South America and Asia along with North America. A 9-foot-tall polar bear, standing at its full height, was hunted in temperatures that "dipped to 50 degrees below zero," according to an interview with Osterberg in the Feb. 22, 1980, Bee.
There also is an Alaskan grizzly bear taken from an area near the Chuckchi Sea and a jaguar from the Amazon jungle. While the bears, being from North America, are expected to remain on display, animals like the jaguar are not expected to be seen for much longer.
Another animal that will be leaving the public eye is a Bengal tiger that was the subject of a 17-day hunt by Osterberg in temperatures as high as "118 degrees every day" in India in 1969, according to the Feb. 1980 interview. Other animals that will not be kept include African antelopes, head mounts of water buffalo and rhinos, and the African wild dog and hyena. Some of the animals that are still being decided on include the wolverine and mountain goats.
One of the Dik-diks a small African antelope happens to be a freak of nature. Since Osterberg followed the rules, he only shot males, since females are needed for the reproduction of the species. In this case, he saw a Dik-dik with antlers and fired away. Only later did he discover that it was a female with male antlers.
When the Great Valley Museum's new building opens this spring, the Central Valley habitats will dwarf the current habitats on display. While many interesting animals from all over the world will be going into storage, many new displays and animals will be presented for the first time.
So, for those who want to see antelopes, lions, tigers, leopards and many other animals, now is the time to visit the museum's Great Animal Hall.
James McAndrews Jr. is a docent and board member of the Great Valley Museum. Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.