Saguaros aren't exactly easy to steal. They can weigh several tons and be more than 60 feet tall. But thefts of Saguaro National Park's namesake cactuses have become common enough that the park inserted tracking tags in some of its saguaros starting in 2009.
Now, officials at the park near Tucson hope to partner with area nurseries to further combat saguaro thieves. As The Arizona Republic reported earlier this month:
The park hopes to expand the tagging program by partnering with local nurseries and having volunteers scan inventories to make sure they do not have tagged cactuses, [park ranger Andy] Fisher said.
The program would "help folks recognize when you've got a responsible nurseryman, and that's where you want to be purchasing your cactus," she said.
Park officials didn't disclose how many saguaros at the park were tagged. A special scanner can be used to detect a tag inside a saguaro.
Disturbing plants or animals in any national park is illegal, but it's also illegal to remove saguaros from state or private land in Arizona without a permit. That's partly because the poetry-inspiring cactuses grow so slowly: They may take as long as 100 years to grow their first arm buds, and they've been known to live for 175 years or longer. They also provide a habitat for the cactus wren, Arizona's state bird.
Leave the saguaros (and other cactuses) alone, people.
Photo: A thick stand of saguaros at Saguaro National Park. | Jeff Stemshorn