Animatronic baby dino comes home to mama

After being discovered by a man and his dog who were out for a stroll, M.A.P.S.’s missing baby velociraptor was rescued and returned by New Port Richey police officers, from left, Detective Joe Iopollo, Recruit Officer Christian Starling, and Field Training Officer David Crowell.

An animatronic baby velociraptor that disappeared from outside the Harry Schwettman Education Center in New Port Richey on Halloween night has been safely returned to its family.

The disappearing dinosaur is one of several animatronic creatures belonging to the Museum of Archeology, Paleontology and Science, a New Port Richey educational institution. It and a few other replica extinct reptiles were strapped in place outside the center in preparation for its interactive “Dino & Dragons” exhibit set to open Dec. 9.

When museum director Charles Sidar arrived at the center early Nov. 1, the 8-foot-long, 80-pound replica reptile was missing.

Police issued a BOLO (Be On the Lookout), and the museum issued a plea for the dino’s safe return, saying it has no intention of pressing charges; it just wanted its baby back.

The dino is worth about $6,000, but that is because of the apparatuses inside it, said museum spokesperson Diana Jones.

“But it can’t be operated without the equipment that we have, so what they basically stole was an 80-pound paperweight.”

M.A.P.S. got its wish Thursday afternoon, when a dog sniffed out the figure in an empty lot near Meadow Lane and George Street, and its walker called the police.

The dino was resting on its side under a large oak tree. While no one knows for sure how it got there, police said, it appeared to have been carried by hand and either dropped because it was too heavy or stashed for retrieval later.

“We’re delighted to have it back,” said Jones of the baby that has no name.

“What would be cool would be if somebody decided to be a sponsor and named it,” she added, noting that the museum has a policy of allowing major donors to name any of the animatrons in the exhibit. For more information visit mapsmuseum.org