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Gallatin Valley locals sad to hear of trailhead vandalism

By Katherine Mozzone, KTVM Reporter, kmozzone@ktvm.com
Published On: May 07 2013 06:52:57 PM MDT
Updated On: May 07 2013 10:45:19 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Before Bozeman local Hayden Diffendaffer takes his first ride up Sourdough Canyon, he takes a look at what vandals did to the trailheads pet station and trashcan.

"It just makes me sad that someone would come up here and destroy something like a dog poop bag and a trashcan, something that we all use every single day," says Diffendaffer.

He's lived in Bozeman for almost 20 years and says he's never seen vandalism like this at one of the trailheads.

"People are coming out here and trying to enjoy the trail. When you have vandalism like this, it doesn't leave a good feeling," explains Diffendaffer.

Gallatin County Sheriff's Deputies say they suspect teenagers might have used several sparklers tied together and ignited with a fuse, or sparkler bombs, to blow up the pet station and trashcan.

Even if it is teenage criminal mischief, Diffendaffer says it's still worrisome.

"Treat the land the way you'd want to be treated, don't blow up stuff that helps us make it cleaner," he says.

Diffendaffer says it's especially unfortunate someone blew up the bear proof trashcan.

"That's protecting our wildlife, too, it's not just affecting us humans," says Diffendaffer.

We spoke with folks in local law enforcement who tell NBC Montana that Sourdough is the only trailhead where they've seen this type of vandalism, recently. Yet, it's not just vandalism they're worried about.

"It's almost like an animal going some place to eat, they go where the food is. People that want to steal things go where the stuff they want to steal is," explains Gallatin County Sheriff's Deputy Dan Tiller.

Tiller tells us it happens every year around this time and lasts through the summer. As more folks start hitting local trailheads, so do thieves.

That's why Tiller says it's important to leave valuables at home or hide them in your locked vehicle.

"These trailheads are isolated enough that oftentimes, we're finding that they'll break a window if they can see something inside," says Tiller.

He urges folks to stay vigilant, keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary and don't hesitate to report it. Suspicious activity can be as simple as someone who's obviously not dressed to recreate. Tiller adds, taking down a license plate number can make all the difference.

"I'll tell you what I do when I go to a trailhead, I look around. If I see something suspicious, I write it down. That way I have it if I come back to my car, something's gone on, at least I have a direction to go," explains Tiller.

Folks like Diffendaffer say, they don't lock their vehicles when they hit the trails, but they just might think twice next time.

"It's definitely given me a second take on trail usage," says Diffendaffer.

We're told the case has been turned over to the National Forest Service. That means those responsible may face harsher fines for destroying federal property.