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9 saguaros vandalized in Tucson national park

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9 saguaros vandalized in Tucson national park

  • Bruce Cowan
  • Bruce Cowan
  • Bruce Cowan

After several of Southern Arizona's iconic cacti, including one that could be hundreds of years old, were hacked apart this weekend, authorities are asking for the public's help in identifying the vandals. Two smaller plants in Saguaro National Park were chopped down, with others deeply slashed.

Several saguaros, and some cholla and prickly pear cacti, were damaged Saturday along the Gould Mine Trail, near the King Canyon Trailhead in the west district of Saguaro National Park, officials said. The damaged cacti were spread over a 100-yard area about a half-mile hike up the trail from its beginning near the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum west of Tucson.

The vandals damaged 9 saguaros, 6 prickly pears, and a couple of teddy bear cholla, Chief Ranger Ray O'Neil said Monday. Two smaller saguaros were cut in half and were estimated to be 20-30 years old. A larger saguaro that was slashed and at risk of dying could be hundreds of years old, he said.

Chopping down plants in a national park was "a very bad idea, and we hope that we can identify those who did this and bring them to account," said O'Neil.

The vandalism was reported around 2 p.m. Saturday, he said.

Anyone with information about the incident should call 520-733-5118, said park spokesman Andy Fisher.

Park officials didn't know what the weapon was, O'Neil said, but they believe it was a large, sharp and heavy object.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference Monday afternoon, O'Neil said that park staffers had reviewed trail cameras from the area. None of the cameras captured the incident, as they were each pointed in the wrong direction, he said.

Federal regulations prohibit "destroying, injuring, defacing, removing, digging or disturbing" plants in national parks. Violators can be sentenced to six months in prison, and fined $5,000. And there are potential civil penalties as well, O'Neil said.

Two vandalism incidents at the park in 2013 resulted in those responsible being caught. That spring, two men who vandalized saguaro and barrel cacti and a palo verde tree turned themselves in. In August 2013, a 16-year-old boy who spray-painted 11 saguaros and dozens of other objects was arrested and charged with felony vandalism.

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