Photo by James Lee
By Kyler Van Vliet
Eight saguaros were found crudely hacked down this October in the Saguaro National Park. Park officials believe the incident happened on or around October 3rd.
The saguaros that were cut down ranged from 1 to 10ft in height and were located just off of the Scenic Trail.
Law enforcement rangers for the park are investigating the vandalization and are searching for the perpetrator or perpetrators that are responsible for the saguaro hackings.
“Saguaro cacti grow very slowly and hold special significance to the people who live here. A 10-foot cactus could easily be 100 years old, and it was killed in a senseless act of vandalism,” said park superintendent Leah McGinnis in a written statement this past Wednesday.
Park officials are asking for the public’s help in identifying those responsible. They are asking that people call the park service’s Investigative Services Branch tip-line at 1-888-653-0009, send an email to [email protected], or submit a tip online at tucne.ws/1fx1 if they were around or visited the Scenic Trail, Passey Loop Trails or the Scenic Drive Trailhead around Oct. 3rd and have any helpful information.
Park officials say that tips can be anonymous.
“You don’t have to tell us who you are, but please tell us what you know… Even a small detail may help rangers identify those responsible and find justice for the saguaros.”
McGinnis said that “all plants, animals, and resources in the national park are protected. Damage to saguaro cacti is especially disheartening because they are the reason for the park’s establishment.”
Park spokeswoman Andy Fisher said the vandalism like the one that occurred earlier this month is quite rare.
“It’s an unusual thing for the cacti to be damaged… We are blessed by the fact that the Tucson community really cares about its saguaros,” said Fisher.
Even though acts of vandalism are rare in the Saguaro National Park, the park has seen its share of abuse.
The last major incident involving the park’s namesake cactus came in 2016, when vandals damaged nine saguaros and several prickly pear and cholla cactuses along the Gould Mine Trail in the park’s Tucson Mountain District. No arrests were made for the incident.
In 2013, a teenager was arrested on a felony count of vandalism for spray-painting 11 cacti and 30 other objects in the park’s east-side Rincon Mountain District.
That same year, two men turned themselves in after surveillance photos showed them damaging a saguaro, cutting branches from a Palo Verde tree and shaving off the tops of two barrel cactuses. They pleaded guilty and were sentenced to one year of probation, 30 hours of community service and fined $458 each. In an unusual move, the federal judge also ordered the men to chop a half-cord of wood with an axe.