The large cactus on Arizona's Tonto National Forest
near Phoenix wasn't menacing anyone, yet it now stands riddled with
holes, the shooting target of vandals. The three arms of the
approximately 250-year-old saguaro were shot until they fell to the
ground. The Maricopa County attorney's office will arraign five
suspects, all under age 20, who were identified in a joint
investigation conducted by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and
the Forest Service. Detective Ken Lignoski says the suspects were
out shooting at small animals and cacti - -just being stupid."
Destroying saguaros is a felony in Arizona, and conviction could
result in as much as a $100,000 fine and a three-year prison term.
Jim McGinnis, manager of the native-plant program at the state
Department of Agriculture, says saguaros probably sustain more
injuries than commonly thought. "Hunters get out there and if they
don't get any game, they have to blast at something," he told the
Arizona Republic. But Richard Stephenson, legislative liaison for
the state Game and Fish Department, says hunters receive too much
blame for cactus shootings. "Real hunters don't do a lot of
shooting. That scares the game away."