Syrup Thieves Tapping Maple Trees in Maine

Small-time operators stealing sap
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2013 4:08 PM CDT
Syrup Thieves Tapping Maple Trees in Maine
This March 12 photo released by Maine Forest Rangers shows an illegally tapped maple tree in northern Maine.   (AP Photo/Maine Forest Rangers)

Remember last year's great maple syrup heist in Canada, the one in which a mind-boggling $20 million worth of syrup got stolen? A smaller-scale heist is now taking place across Maine, one tree at a time, reports the Montreal Gazette. Private landowners in remote parts of the state are discovering that thieves are running illegal taps—and doing such a haphazard job that they're harming the trees in the process.

The math doesn't make much sense if the sap bandits hope to make big money, explains the Gazette. One maple tree yields about 10 gallons of sap a year, but it takes 40 gallons to make just one gallon of syrup. The illegal tappers are using bigger drill bits than the industry standard, and more of them, which makes any wood eventually milled from the trees nearly worthless. Bigger holes also make the trees more prone to disease. Rangers can't explain the spike in thefts. "It could be that landowners are more willing to contact us," one tells AP. "But it also may be that more people are venturing out into the woods to try their hand at this." (More maple trees stories.)

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