National Park Officials are investigating an act of vandalism after someone slashed or chopped more than a dozen cacti along the Gould Mine Trail at Saguaro National Park West. Officials are offering a $500 reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible.
Chief Ranger Ray O'Neil says at least nine saguaros were damaged, along with six prickly pears and a couple of cholla cacti. He says they believe the crime occurred Saturday morning.
The damaged cacti are about a 20 minute hike from the trail head near the Sonoran Desert Museum. O'Neil says the smaller damaged saguaros were about 20 to 30 years old while the taller saguaros could be more than 100 years old.
"That's pretty horrible because we love our cactus, we love our saguaros," said Esther White, a hiker.
Officials can't say for sure what kind of weapon was used but believe it was something sharp and heavy. Because the cacti sit on federal, protected land, O'Neil says the consequences are severe.
"It's a federal misdemeanor so there can be penalties up to six months in jail, fines up to $5,000 in addition there can be civil penalties," he said.
This is similar to incidents from 2013 at Saguaro National Park East. Saguaro cacti were spray painted with graffiti early in the year. Later, a handful of cacti were cut down or knocked over. Two men admitted to that second incident and were asked to pay for restoration.