BOZEMAN, Mont. - With the help of his friends, a Gallatin Valley artist is offering $3,000 to whoever can help figure out who took three of his blue horse sculptures.
The artist tells us it happened sometime between Wednesday and Monday afternoon.
Jim Dolan is the same artist who created the bison at 8th and Main Street in Bozeman and the geese at the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport. Dolan says he's not mad as much as he is bewildered as to why someone would take the art.
You might have seen them on your way up to Helena, 4 miles north of Wheat Montana on Highway 287.
"This is where people can easily see them. It kind of shows what I think is the idyllic part of Montana...This is a gift for the people of Montana," explains Dolan.
Dolan showed us his blue horses. It took him 15 months to make all 39 sculptures and another three days to install them onto the hillside. But as of Monday afternoon, there are only 36.
"We came with a photographer, taking pictures, and all of a sudden we noticed one horse was gone, then we counted and there were two more," says Dolan.
They were two full-size horses and a colt.
"I was disappointed that someone would actually take them," says Dolan.
Dolan says the horses are securely staked into the ground. It's why he believes whoever is responsible for stealing them knew exactly what they wanted and planned ahead, likely bringing hammers and a cart to haul away the art. Each one weighs 300 to 500 pounds and is worth an estimated $15,000 to $19,000 apiece. Yet, Dolan says they're not marketable.
"They're too big to hide and no one's going to buy these and put them in their yard because they'll be spotted right away," says Dolan.
We wanted to know if the art might be worth something as scrap metal, so we stopped by Pacific Steel and Recycling to learn more.
"Every little bit counts. Recycling is a good thing for the community and everyone, but to make it worth stealing somebody's art, you can't put a scrap price on something like that, I don't think," explains Pacific Steel and Recycling's Trenton Smith.
Smith tells us he knows Dolan. Dolan often buys new steel for his art from Pacific Steel. For the 39 horses, he spent $55,000 on the material.
But Smith says the scrap steel would be worth far less. Without taking them apart, the horses would fall into the tin and appliances category and would bring in five and a half cents per pound or $110 per ton. Dolan's three horses only weigh 1,400 pounds, at most.
What if someone took apart the horses first? "We would probably buy something like that as prepared iron and would be worth six and a half cents per pound or $130 per ton," says Smith.
That comes out to between $77 to $91. It's why Dolan doesn't think the thieves were after the horses for scrap metal, either. He says he's confident the horses will turn up, but it doesn't mean he won't start taking precautions.
"We'll have to find a new way of protecting the horses," says Dolan.
If you have any information about the stolen blue horses, you can call the Broadwater County Sheriff's Office at 266-3441.