The thieves typically come at night, sometimes illuminating their work with headlamps or muffling the sound of chain saw exhaust by attaching a hose that runs into a bucket of water.
When they are done, the scene is similar to one Greg Peterson found recently on his 31 acres near Port Gamble Bay -- discarded branches sticking up from the ground and two missing maple trees.
....The targets often are big-leaf maples between 60 and 100 years old, which offer a chance at valuable wood prized by craftsmen.
Such timber -- known as "figured" wood -- displays a special three-dimensional grain that is coveted by guitar and fiddle makers around the globe.
Officials say craftsmen may pay hundreds of dollars for a couple of maple boards that end up as particularly beautiful instruments.
....Another recent incident involved thieves cutting down several maples along state Route 104, removing chunks a few feet long in their search for the special grain. In other cases, contract loggers have removed more trees than their clients authorized, sometimes returning after the legitimate job was completed.
In eastern Jefferson County, maple poachers cut a half-mile of vehicle trails through a fragile state wetland and stole up to 50 maple trees, Cronin said.
The reason for this being:
The domestic demand for electric guitars grew 43.5 percent last year, while the acoustic guitar market climbed 38.6 percent, according to the International Music Products Association.
Eric Clapton was unavailable for comment.
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