Tree Sap Thievery On the Rise

Maine forest rangers remain vigilant

maple syrup thieves maine illegal taps

    Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Sticky-fingered thieves have been pilfering the sap from Maine’s maple trees. According to the state’s Forest Service rangers, there has been a dramatic rise in sap theft over the past several years. The thieves typically trespass on private property to tap the trees with a spout and bucket, then steal away into the night with gallons of sweet liquid gold. "It could be that landowners are more willing to contact us,” Ranger Thomas Liba told the Associated Press. “But it also may be that more people are venturing out into the woods to try their hand at this.”

Syrup production peaks between late February and mid-April, when conditions are right for the extraction of sap for making maple syrup, which sells for roughly $50 per gallon.

Last year, thieves in Canada made off with nearly $20 million in syrup from a Quebec warehouse, temporarily driving up global prices of the pancake aid.

Illegal tapping is often harmful to trees. According to Liba, thieves commonly use oversize drill bits for their tap holes, which leaves the trees more susceptible to decay and disease. Badly damaged trees will often end up as firewood or industrial pulp. So far only one thief has been caught in the act and is working with the landowner out of court to determine the appropriate level of remuneration.

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