"REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS, Calif. — It was an unlikely crime scene: a steep trail used by bears leading to a still, ancient redwood grove. There, a rare old-growth coast redwood had been brutally hacked about 15 times by poachers, a chain saw massacre that had exposed the tree’s deep red heartwood.
The thieves who butchered this and other 1,000-year-old arboreal giants were after the burls, gnarly protrusions on the trees that are prized for their intricately patterned wood. Although timber theft has long plagued public lands, a recent spate of burl poaching, with 18 known cases in the last year, has forced park officials to close an eight-mile drive through old-growth forests, the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, at night to deter criminals. More closings are expected.
While some burls are small and barnacle-like — perfect for souvenir salt-and-pepper shakers — others weigh hundreds of pounds and can fetch hundreds or thousands of dollars per slab."