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Attorney General's office gets new stuffed black bear

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After becoming nearly extinct earlier this year, the black bear population in the West Virginia Capitol is slowly rebounding.

The West Virginia Bear Hunters Association on Friday delivered a 200-pound stuffed black bear to Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's Office.

The animal now sits where former Attorney General Darrell McGraw kept his own taxidermied black bear collection, in an alcove near the Capitol's east wing.

Mounted by Warner's Taxidermy in Buckhannon, the female bear stands on a three-foot-tall barn wood pedestal, covered with moss, leaves, roots and greenery. The four-year-old sow stands semi-upright, with her front paws leaning on a rock.

She's a friendly-looking bear, with a slight smirk and playful posture. Her coat is solid black, except for a buff-colored muzzle.

"It's a really good, pretty mount. It's a nice addition to that section of our office and that section of the Capitol," Attorney General spokeswoman Beth Ryan said.

Miranda Ware, 18, of Upshur County, killed the bear on Dec. 14, 2012. Her family had it mounted, and then loaned it to the Attorney General's Office through the West Virginia Bear Hunter's Association.

Ware accompanied the bear to its temporary home last week, even posing for a few pictures with Morrisey.

The animal will remain at the Capitol for a year, after which the Bear Hunter's Association will replace it with another stuffed bear.

"The goal is, they want to have a new bear put on display each year," Ryan said.

McGraw's three bears were returned to their rightful owners — former Secretary of State Ken Hechler and former senior assistant attorney general Rex Burford — just before Morrisey took office in January.

Morrisey is now slowly building his own collection. Staff members found a stuffed bear in one of the Attorney General's storage spaces. That animal now protects the office's main entrance.

A few weeks ago, someone — no one is sure who — tore off part of that bear's left-front paw. The Attorney General's Office filed a complaint with Capitol police over the vandalism, but Ryan said they have not received any updates.

There are no security cameras in the hallway outside Morrisey's offices, so the culprit might never be caught.

Ryan said the office is looking at ways to fix the bear's wounded paw, however. She had members of the Bear Hunters Association take a look at the other bear, to see if there is a way to repair it.

"It should be something that's repairable," she said. "We're working on it."

The Attorney General's Office will soon launch a naming contest for both stuffed bears through its Facebook and Twitter pages.

While the names will be left to voters, Ryan has a suggestion for the office's maimed mascot: "Lefty."

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or zack.harold@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ZackHarold.


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