A crime wave has hit the New England state of Maine, as a Christmas wreath shortage has lead residents to turn to the dark side.
Forest rangers are trying to stop an “epidemic” of “tipping” or cutting off branches of evergreens and trying to sell them off to wreathmakers.
During the festive season the overwhelming majority of houses in Maine will sport a wreath on the front door.
Such is the demand that selling branches has become a source of income in the poorest part of the state.
Vast swathes of Maine are turned over to evergreen forest, largely inhabited by moose and bear.
The “tippers” post hints on social media to help them take advantage of the trees. Some operate with permission from the the landowners, but some do not.
It’s a lucrative operation. One “tipper” told the New York Times they can earn several hundred dollars a day from selling the branches. One “tipper” used a drone to find a new supply of branches to sell.
“Over 1,400 pounds in one seizure,” Courtney Hammond, a Maine Forest ranger, said: “Many of our seizures run from 400 to 600 to 700 pounds, but at 40 or 45 cents a pound, people can make very good money at it.”