SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The fate of the decommissioned taxidermy at the now-closed Delbridge Museum of Natural History in Sioux Falls has captured the attention of many.

Detected levels of arsenic prompted the closure, so KELOLAND News asked for and received the lab results from the zoo that showed the varying levels of arsenic. Doug Raynie, who up until June was a chemistry professor at SDSU, believes “it’s probably safe” for the public to be around the display with these detected levels.

“I think it’s probably safe as long as there are some kind of physical distance between the specimen and the general public so that kids aren’t coming up and petting on this cute little animal,” Raynie said.

The taxidermy was acquired years ago by local businessman Henry Brockhouse and eventually bought by C.J. Delbridge. About two weeks ago, zoo and city leadership talked about the sudden closure of the museum.

“We have proper precautions in place, with barriers, ‘do not touch’ signs, so I do not believe that the public was in jeopardy or danger,” Sioux Falls Zoo & Aquarium CEO Becky Dewitz said on August 29.

“When we had the test results showing arsenic was present, we took the proactive approach to close the museum again for the safety of the zoo’s staff and its 250,000 annual visitors,” Don Kearney, director of parks and recreation with the City of Sioux Falls, said on August 29. “As these specimens continue to age, we know that the risk only becomes greater for chemical exposure.”

PPE, or personal protective equipment like gloves or a respirator, is not typically worn by someone touring a museum. But Raynie says that with these animals, it’s a must if you’re going to have physical contact with them.

Dan Santella: “People shouldn’t be touching these without PPE, right?”

“Right, exactly,” Raynie said.

As for the future of the collection, Raynie says a barrier is eventually necessary.

“I think long-term, at a minimum, they should be behind glass,” Raynie said.

The city council was set to vote on designating the collection as surplus on September 19; this designation would allow another organization to receive the collection now owned by the city. However, council chair Marshall Selberg tells KELOLAND News he thinks that vote is going to be delayed.