Work group to decide fate of Delbridge Museum taxidermy collection

The Delbridge Museum of Natural History in Sioux Falls has closed to the public.
The Delbridge Museum of Natural History in Sioux Falls has closed to the public.(Great Plains Zoo)
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 11:29 AM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken has convened a group of individuals to develop a plan for the Delbridge Museum of Natural History taxidermy collection after its closure to the public.

According to the city, a majority of the more than 150 mounts have tested positive for various levels of arsenic. It was announced in August that the exhibit at the Great Plains Zoo would be closing.

The zoo reported that prior to the 1980s, strong chemicals were used in the taxidermy process to preserve hides, and as the specimens in the Delbridge Collection — harvested from the 1940s to 1970s — continue to age, there is a greater chance of chemical exposure. Because of this, the City of Sioux Falls and the Great Plains Zoo decided to take down the collection.

That decision was met with concern from the public about the fate of the historic collection. The work group is tasked with developing a plan for each specimen.

“I’ve heard some of the concerns the public has on this collection, and this work group will help us create a plan to move forward. While we know the mounts cannot stay on the Great Plains Zoo’s campus in their current condition, we ultimately need City Council to declare the collection surplus to move forward in any capacity,” said Mayor TenHaken. “We collaborated with City Council leadership on this strategic pause to bring a clear plan forward that identifies what will happen to each specimen.”

The work group will meet on a regular basis and will be led by Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Director Don Kearney and Great Plains Zoo CEO Becky Dewitz. The individuals who have agreed to participate in the group are Councilors Rich Merkouris and Alex Jensen, Sioux Falls Zoo and Aquarium Board Chair Jeanelle Lust, Parks and Recreation Board Member Mick Conlin, and two community members, Ally Brandner and Jeff Scherschligt.

I trust these respected individuals will do their due diligence to present prudent, realistic, and specific surplus options for City Council’s consideration so we can move forward,” said TenHaken.

The work group is expected to have a surplus plan prepared to publicly present to City Council before the end of the year.