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‘It’s hard to stomach:’ University of Wisconsin Arboretum staff react to rare tree theft, as police nail down a timeline

Published: Nov. 13, 2020 at 6:33 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 13, 2020 at 9:03 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - After stunned arborists reported it Monday, UW Madison Police say they have nailed down a possible timeline for a rare tree theft at the UW Arboretum.

The caretaker of the the Longenecker Horticultural Gardens where the 25-foot Algonquin Pillar Swiss Mountain pine was sawed down, David Stevens, said the trees at the arboretum carry as much meaning as they do beauty, and are used for research.

“It’s hard to stomach,” Stevens said.

UWPD Spokesperson Marc Lovicott said they believe the tree was taken by multiple people overnight on Thursday Nov. 5 going into Friday Nov. 6 to ultimately be used as a holiday decoration.

“Unfortunately there is a Grinch among us, and you wouldn’t even fathom coming into this beautiful area to do something like this,” Lovicott said.

Police say the culprits likely scoped the entire area. An even older rare tree was also partially chopped down, but left behind, about 100 yards away from the stolen pine.

Stevens said the 30-year-old pine tree, native to central-Europe, stood next to a twin that was untouched in the theft. A fence now surrounds it to protect it.

“This was the first thing people would see when they walked into the gardens and was really a delight for visitors," Stevens said.

While the arboretum staff estimate the cost of the stolen and damaged trees to be about $13,000, Stevens said it is hard to put a price tag on.

“To think that a tree that was 31-years-old that certainly would survive here for well over 100 years was cut down for a months maybe enjoyment for others- it’s kind of mind boggling,” he said.

If anyone noticed any large trucks or equipment with a tree in tow around Thursday night Nov. 5 into Friday morning Nov. 6, UWPD ask they contact them at 608-264-2677. Anonymous tips can be made to Madison Area Crime Stoppers at 608-266-6014.

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