Thanks a lot, poachers. Tired of killing elephants, they've moved onto one of America's most incredible natural wonders: the remaining redwood forests in California that are home to the tallest trees on earth. The endangered — and legally protected — Californian sequoia are being targeted by tree poachers for their massive burls, a type of gnarly, knotted wood that's popular among woodworkers for its dense and crazy-curving interior. Redwood burls fetch a hefty price on the black market, which is great for meth addicts, who are apparently behind some of the thefts.
It's less great for the trees, because cutting off the burls can expose the trees' heartwood and leave them vulnerable to disease, The New York Times reports. The attacks, perpetrated by bands of chainsaw wielding beasts known as "midnight burlers," are increasingly occurring illegally because legal sources of the endangered trees — and their burls — have all but run out.
Last year, a tree was felled to get access to a particularly large burl. The criminals then dragged it under an underpass, where authorities later found it.
So, basically, poachers are stealing from and harming Americans' tallest natural inheritance so it can be turned into ridiculous redwood souvenirs or a coffee table. Is it really worth it? (No. 3D-print yourself a table or something.)
Here's what the burls look like.
And here's a similar tree after a February attack.
Jeff Bomke, a National Park Service spokesman and the Lorax of this particular story, told Fox News the redwoods were generally resilient, but that the ancient trees, which can live for 2,000 years, are still facing irreparable damage.
These trees are priceless. To see them injured in this way is very disturbing. These trees belong to everyone.
In an attack last year, burl poachers left behind a massive 8-by-10 foot scar in a tree, which you can see in this NPS photo.
The attacks have become common enough that rangers have decided to close a road through the park, the Newton B. Drury Parkway, at night. It's previously been open 24 hours a day, according to an NPS news release.
This type of wood is becoming increasingly rare and the most plentiful supply is often found on park lands. ... Much of the illegal poaching occurs at night. The closure is a proactive step toward preserving our State's priceless natural resources.
Photos: National Park Service