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Burl Thieves Attack Redwoods

A ranger stands near a grand coast redwood that lost its burl to poachers this week at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Photo by Marshall Neeck.

A ranger stands near a damaged coast redwood that lost its burl to poachers this week at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Photo by Marshall Neeck.

Last year, I saw a man ride a bicycle down the road from Ladybird  Johnson Grove in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park carrying a large chainsaw. I was baffled at the sight and now realize just how terrible an omen this was.

It’s hard to imagine how anyone could enter the cathedral-like groves at Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP) and steal wood from an ancient and spectacular redwood. Unfortunately, we are forced to imagine it because burl poaching is happening in our parks.

Last month, a 300-year-old redwood was cut down at RNSP so that the thieves could cut off a burl that was growing 5o feet up on the tall redwood’s trunk. Again this week, an old redwood was attacked and this time the base of the large redwood was deeply cut to remove the burl wood near the Tall Trees Trail along Redwood Creek at RNSP.

Apparently, there is still a market for  marbled burl wood which is used to create a variety of wooden products. The act of cutting burls off a redwood damages the tree by weakening the trunk base, making it vulnerable to disease and rot, and reducing its ability to reproduce by basal sprouts.

We can use DNA sequencing to trace burl wood to the source tree, so consumers of burl products should think twice before supporting this industry that may be using illegally obtained wood.  Please help us catch the thieves and contact Redwood National and State Parks at (707) 465-7335 if you have information about this recent crime.

Emily Burns

About Emily Burns

Director of Science, Save the Redwoods League. Emily joined the League's staff in 2010 after studying redwood forest ecology for seven years.

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8 Responses to Burl Thieves Attack Redwoods

  1. Gale Steelman May 25, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    I hope they catch him. It is obvious that he is pretty greedy by the hunk he took. That’s a huge hunk out of the forest’s future. This is one “local” that will keep her eyes peeled!

  2. Emily Burns
    Emily Burns May 29, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    Thanks Gale, the redwoods are lucky to have you watching out for them! Hopefully, we won’t see this type of crime happen again.

  3. Luke May 31, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    This is what happens when you don’t properly fund your state and national parks.

  4. johanna June 4, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

    Can you install a few cameras?
    Start Redwood Watch?
    A reward for evidence/eye witness leading to capture?
    Who sells burl? Use that DNA. Catch that guy.

  5. Stan June 15, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    Tell that guy just S of Benbow and any carvers in the area abt the DNA test and see if their stockpile shrinks. When one does, you got your man. Could just as easily be illegals exploiting yet another unguarded wild resource, too. I lived on an 80 ac inholding in the King Range for yrs back in the 90s and would find grown mountain lions killed and left laying by the road so they could sell it’s pancreas or some similar organ that the chinese think will make their penises a mm or two longer. They didn’t even bother w/ taking the hide…..scum.

  6. Kelly March 2, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

    Can anything be done to help the tree after this has been done? :( That’s a pretty big hunk, but I know big trees can be pretty resilient, too.

  7. T Clark March 4, 2014 at 6:33 am #

    It isn’t about funding, it is about teaching people right from wrong. All of the money in word cannot compensate for the lack of ethics or values. Look at our government now, more $$$ than ever and still incompetent. The corrective action starts in your home with your children.

  8. Mark March 5, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    When the perpetrators are apprehended, it would be appropriate to nail them to a tree.

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