Gordon Munroe stands beneath a mature Douglas fir that was poisoned sometime this year on his Elliston Avenue property. Munroe and his wife had enjoyed the tree since they moved into their home in 1964.

Douglas fir ‘murder’ in Saanich a mystery

Couple distraught after someone bored 14 holes and fed poison into base of mature tree on their Saanich property

Saanich homeowners Donna and Gordon Munroe are mourning the loss of a mature Douglas fir tree, which was mysteriously poisoned on their Elliston Avenue property earlier this year.

The Munroes first noticed an abnormal amount of sap seeping from the fir’s base when they returned from a trip in early May. A closer look revealed 14 holes had been intentionally bored into the base of the tree, which is about 23 metres high and had been as healthy as when they purchased the property in 1964.

“That’s how you kill a tree,” said Gordon, pointing out the bored holes around the tree’s base. The couple are now on the hook for the hefty cost to remove the dead wood. “We just don’t know why you would do that, and who did it, but we have a pretty good idea.”

Each hole was corked and bleeding a sap like liquid for the summer months, he said. It will now cost between $800 and $1,000 to bring it down.

Upon discovering the damage, Donna immediately contacted the District of Saanich and filed a police report. But without any incriminating evidence, it’s a cold case for now, said Saanich Police Sgt. Steve Eassie.

“There’s been other cases such as this. We had one in Cordova Bay this year where neighbours were complaining about an unpruned tree and then all of a sudden the tree died,” Eassie said.

A Saanich municipal arborist visited the tree back in May and correctly estimated that it would die. Saanich did award a free permit to bring the tree down, as it would not have qualified for removal under the amended 2014 tree bylaws that protect any tree with a diameter of 60 centimetres.

Cory Manton, Saanich manager of urban forestry, horticulture and natural areas, said reports of tree poisonings to municipal hall are rare but there was another one in rural Saanich last year.

There isn’t much the District can do without hard evidence in a poisoning situation, he said.

A set of neighbours on the street, however, believe someone was unhappy with the fir’s ample detritus, most of which is needles and falls directly onto one property.

Despite their suspicions, the neighbours have no evidence of who may have poisoned the tree.

Tenants of the home adjacent to the Munroe property declined to comment on the situation, except to say they’re sad to see the Douglas fir die. Gordon said his attempts to speak with the landlord of the neighbouring house have so far been unsuccessful.

reporter@saanichnews.com