County Seat Newspaper
of Clare County

Webber’s Legacy: Worldwide Wildlife Collection Unveiled

New Museum Dedicated to Education and Conservation



Cleaver Staff Writer

CLARE – If you have ever been to Jay’s Sporting Goods, you’ve noticed the many taxidermy animals gracing their walls and displayed around their store. The new Jay’s & Webber Wildlife & Education Center near Jay’s Sporting Goods in Clare is quite literally a different animal. With there being only four other public museums of this size or larger in the Midwest and about 200 others in the world, it is truly a place to book for summer travels.

Jay Poet always wanted an animal display to help educate people about animals and hunting but never had the resources. Wayne Webber provided those resources and the 300-plus taxidermies to make this museum come to life since the two of them both had a love for the outdoors.

This non-profit center was strongly built with the passion of teaching children, as well as adults. Webber wanted to have people learn the importance of hunting in conservation, how animals interact with each other in their unique habitats, the balance of ecosystems, sanctioned hunting, and teaching environmental science. Sam Humphrey was my tour guide tour held the VIP exhibition June 24 prior to the public grand opening. Humphrey is the head of the exhibits and is knowledgeable about all the different animals and is open to answering questions about them. He is excited for the opening to the public and hopes that people learn a lot from the exhibition. There has already been contact between local schools like Harrison, Clare and Farwell about field trips for students. Along with local schools, students from Mid and CMU also will benefit from being able to view life-size animals up close. It is not every day you get to stand up close and personal to a grizzly bear or an elephant.

The museum provides a large variety of animals in their realistic habitats which create an immersive experience.

“The exhibit displays three continents worth of animals from 13 different biomes from your forest to your jungle to the mountains and savannas and everything in between,” Humphrey said.

The focus of the display with the animals was to create a way for people to visually see how animals interact with each other, such as species of mountain goats resting in its rocky terrain or a bobcat in a tree with its freshly caught prey. With there being a variety of animals, it is seen how species from each continent vary, a few animals with genetic mutations like the longhorn steer, the smallest species of antelope in the world, and animals in local religion. All the animals were caught by Webber himself except for the white-tailed fawns and the snow leopard. The snow leopard is an endangered species, so it shouldn’t be hunted. Since they wanted to have a predator in the European section, they created a life-size replica of the snow leopard out of white-tail deer, mountain lion, and synthetic fur. During a visit, whether you are with a guide or not, ask the staff about the animals there because they have lots to share about the animals there.

Fun facts about the animals:

-Lions are most commonly dying from dental damage.

-They tattoo rhinos’ horns so you cannot sell them.

-Animals don’t typically fight at water holes unless they are territorial or in packs.

-Hippos cannot swim so instead they bounce up from the bottom for air when they’re in water.

Webber lived a large and impactful life. Originally, he was filling in potholes and paving driveways with his cement company. His business quickly boomed when Webber and his childhood friend formed one of the largest concrete road pavers in Michigan and Texas. Once business became successful, Webber took a step back and took some time for leisure in his 30s. Aside from owning a farm in Texas, he enjoyed hunting animals all around the world – from North America to Europe and Africa. The earliest taxidermy in the exhibit is the grizzly bear. Despite it looking a bit rough, it stands out as a trophy of Webber’s earlier hunts. Webber was in his 70s when he contacted Jay Poet about one last project for his legacy. That was the Jay’s & Webber Wildlife & Education Center. Webber hunted until he was 82 years old. Unfortunately, Webber passed away in 2021 and never got to see the finished project. However, his legacy will stay along with people learning from this animal museum. Webber was a good man and thought a lot about people and wildlife. He regularly donated to African villages with school supplies and food, and also helped build water wells for both people and animals.

From innocent animals like hares to the most dangerous hippo, there is plenty to see. Make sure to look up as well or you may miss some baboons in trees or birds in the air. A keen eye for detail has been put into the exhibit, and the art in the backgrounds is exquisite – all carefully painted with immense detail. There was a lot of thought and support put into this project, so make sure to respect the displays by not touching them.

The Jay’s & Webber Wildlife & Education Center is located at 3891 E Surrey Road in Clare. Kids are already loving the animal displays, and love learning about the different species. The center will officially open July 5 and will be open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with shorter hours on Sunday.


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