Thieves who stole a buzzard statue from a forest park would have hatched an elaborate plan, the facility caretaker said.
The wooden sculpture was taken from Castlewellan Forest while the play park was in lockdown.
The bird sat atop a 12 foot pole and "isn't something you could tuck under your arm", Martin Carey, chief executive of Mourne Heritage Trust, said.
He said the heist was unlikely to have been an impulse or "frivolous" exercise and probably required machinery.
Mr Carey said: "It does appear that someone has taken advantage of the unusual situation where the forest park has been closed and it's not the sort of response we would have expected to the health emergency. It's really odd that this was coveted so much by someone that they would take it. We think it's unlikely to be a prank.
"It would be a highly elaborate prank if it is one."
The buzzard - which belongs to a set including a red squirrel and badger - is "there to delight children".
Mr Carey hopes the people who took it will have a change of heart.
He said: "It wouldn't be unprecedented when pieces of public property have been taken that they've quietly turned up in another location.
"If anyone happens to see this it, contact us or Newry Mourne and Down Council."
A Newry, Mourne and Down District Council spokesman said the theft was under investigation by police.
He said: "Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is aware of the theft of a sculpture at Castlewellan Play Park. The incident is currently being investigated by the Police Service of Northern Ireland."
You can contact Mourne Heritage Trust on 028 437 24059 or Newry, Mourne and Down Council on 0330 137 4000.