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Sticky fingers: maple Syrup maker says 140 sap buckets were stolen

In this Wednesday, March 27 2019 photo, maple syrup maker Fred Hopkins stands next to sap to collect and buckets in St. Albans, Vt., lent him after 140 of his buckets were stolen from the trees. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)

ST. ALBANS, Vt. – A Vermont maple syrup maker season isn’t so sweet after 140 of his sap to collect and buckets were stolen from maple trees.

The thief or thieves struck twice at two different places along a road in the northwestern part of the state, making off with the steel buckets, according to Fred Hopkins, of St. Albans.

The first time there was no sap flows yet, but the second time that the perpetrators dumped out the liquid. That was left behind, it was clear, frozen juice on the floor.

“We think that the someone, who are in need of additional buckets, because they are not worth anything in the junkyard,” said Hopkins, 70, who says that they can be had for between $1 and $10.

After hearing reports in the media about the heists, a couple in a nearby town and offered to lend Hopkins steel buckets. They stopped by earlier this week, along with the police investigation of the crime, to help Hopkins to install 45 buckets.

St. Albans Police Cpl. Keith McMahon said he hears things stolen, including lawn equipment and even farm machinery, but never sap buckets and two times in.

“It is not sit well with me to begin with,” he said Thursday, “but it made it even worse” that the theft happened two times.

Hopkins and his wife Maureen have also heard of the county maple syrup makers association, a maple equipment dealer and other maple syrup maker offer help. Vermont is the country’s largest producer of maple syrup.

After putting the buckets on maple trees around a cemetery, he went to check on them a day later because it was windy. They were gone when he came.

Hopkins, who makes maple syrup as a hobby and gives a lot of road, bought another 100 buckets of someone who had extras. He installed solar lights and camera ‘ s game is to keep the thief away or catch the person in the act.

Nine days later, the thief or thieves struck again on a other site that he had not rigged with game cameras.

Hopkins expects to give away or to sell, the sap he collects this year instead of cooking, or in syrup given what has happened, and the late start of the season in comparison with past years.

“This year is a bit of a wash for me right now,” he said.

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