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Maple syrup and crime: Caught sticky-handed

The way it ought to be

LANDOWNERS and forest rangers in Maine are facing a surprising problem: thieves have been illegally tapping maple trees and stealing the gooey sap to make maple syrup.Rangers started getting reports of such thefts about five years ago, but they reached a peak during this year’s “sugaring season”, a four- to six-week period starting in March when syrup producers drill holes in their trees, insert small spouts and collect the sap in buckets.The impact has been costly—and not only in terms of lost syrup, which sells for as much as $65 a gallon (3.8 litres). Badly drilled holes can cause decay that stains and ultimately ruins the wood, which is sold as lumber used to make veneer, flooring or kitchen cabinets. A single log of top-quality maple may be worth hundreds of dollars, but with damage from illegal taps—sometimes found in clusters of as many as 40 or 50, with spouts much larger than the 5/16-inch (8mm) prescribed by the industry—it may be worth a fraction of that amount and good only for firewood.The culprits are thought mostly to be hobbyists making maple syrup for their family and friends, though officials…

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