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The weirdest museum in Washington features more than a thousand taxidermied animals

Big game hunter Donald Sebesta and his wife collected the vast majority of trophies on display at this Ritzville museum.

RITZVILLE, Wash. — Some people golf for fun. Others might go boating. Dr Donald Sebesta's lifelong hobby has been something else entirely.

Inside The Lasting Legacy Wildlife Museum, Sebesta opens a door and we are following him inside a huge, quiet room room where two elephants, a pride of lions, a giraffe, a hippo, baboons, and a crocodile are among hundreds of taxidermied animals. 

"This is everything in Africa that you can hunt legally over the last 30 years," Sebesta said. "We hunted it and collected it. Saved everything."

Sebesta's wife Sandy is also a big game hunter. 

"Sandy put 60 in here and I put in the rest," he said.

This 84 year old surgeon has filled this room and nearly a dozen more dioramas with more than a thousand animals hunted all over the world.

And every one of them has a story.

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"This elephant is a giant elephant, a good elephant," Sebesta said pointing to one of the two in the African diorama. "He had lost all his teeth and couldn't eat so he was losing weight, but he was a beautiful elephant and he was getting ready to die."

Sebesta says the second elephant had been rampaging through villages before he shot it. The baboons were also considered a danger to people.

These are stories the Sebesta couple would share with the neighborhood children, who 3 to 4 times a week, would knock on the door to see their trophies.

"My wife said to me, 'This is dumb,'" Sebesta laughed. "Let's build a real museum."

Right off I-90 in Ritzville, an hour west of Spokane, you'll find the 25-thousand square foot Lasting Legacy Wildlife Museum. It opened in 2018.

"Sandy and I are a unique couple because we are constantly looking at what we can put there, what other animals there are, what kind of animals we should be looking for," Sebesta said.

Credit: Donald Sebesta
Dr Donald Sebesta and wife Sandy pose with a trophy animal.

We're visiting on a day the museum is closed so it's just Dr. Sebesta, us, and all of these silent animals frozen in time. Some like the golden takin and the bearcat, we've never seen before.

"Their scent is like popcorn," Sebesta notes as we look upon the bearcat, a species that roams Southeast Asia.

There's a two story diorama dedicated to the many wild sheep and goats Sebesta tracked at elevations up to 13-thousand feet.

"A lot of memories," he said quietly as we looked at photographs of his mountain adventures on the wall.

There was also the time an alligator came after his boat in a Louisiana bayou.

"His head was that long," Sebesta said spreading his arms wide. "And the guide said sh-sh-sh-sh-shoot him and I was right there and I just pow! He stood up on his tail."

The Sebestas plan to record their stories for visitors. After they pass, the museum will go into a trust as a lasting tribute to the world's animals.

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As for those who are against hunting, or against hunting at this scale, Sebesta shakes his head.

"We just tell 'em we hunt," he said. "You want to look at it, come on up."

And what you'll see is one of the wildest wonders in the state of Washington.

The Lasting Legacy Museum is open Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., though there are plans to expand the number of days open. The museum is located off I-90 at Exit 221. The address is 1729 Weber Rd., Ritzville, WA 99169.

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