Vandals ripped open a canvas tarpaulin protecting UCLA's iconic "Bruin" statue and splashed the bronze sculpture with red and yellow oil-based paint sometime Tuesday night or early this morning.
The statue, located on campus in Bruin Plaza, was damaged sometime between 10 p.m. Tuesday and 6 a.m. Wednesday, said UCLA Police Sgt. Paul Stewart. There were no witnesses to the vandalism, and police said they have no suspects. A felony vandalism report has been filed because the estimated cost of the damage is more than $400.
The statue had been covered by UCLA Facilities Management since Monday, a tradition that has been followed every year for more than 15 years during the week before the annual football game between UCLA and its crosstown rival, the University of Southern California. A message on the tarp had read, "The Bruin Bear is hibernating."
Police said the damaged tarp itself was spray-painted with obscenities. Vandals also left behind a can of spray paint.
"This probably ranks as one of the more egregious forms of vandalism of the bear that we've seen," said Leroy Sisneros, director of maintenance and alterations for UCLA Facilities Management, who recalled that the statue was last vandalized three years ago, when it was defaced with white paint, but not during UCLA–USC rivalry week.
Crews were using acetone, brushes and high-pressure hoses to remove the paint without damaging the statue's patina, and carpenters were building a plywood enclosure for the statue to provide it with more protection.
The crews hoped to complete the cleaning and have the enclosure in place by Wednesday evening.
In 1984, "The Bruin," a gift from the UCLA Alumni Association, was unveiled before a crowd of nearly 1,000 alumni celebrating the association's first half-century. Measuring 10 feet long, 6 feet wide, 3 feet across and weighing more than 2 tons, the statue was billed at that time as the largest bear sculpture in the United States.