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Auburn Trees Poisoned: Toomer's Corner Trees 130 Years Old

By Jason Beahm on February 17, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

There's nothing wrong with a good natured rivalry. But poisoning trees is just bush league.

Auburn University was stunned after someone apparently poisoned the university's 130-year-old Toomer's Oaks. The beautiful Toomer's Corner trees are a post-game gathering place for victory celebrations. According to investigators, the oaks were dosed with "lethal amounts" of herbicide.

Police have now arrested Harvey Almorn Updyke Jr., 62, who stands accused of poisoning the oaks. Updyke is a former Texas state trooper. He is facing charges of first-degree criminal mischief. If convicted, Updyke faces up to 10 years in prison, though at first glance, jail time seems unlikely. Updyke is currently being held on $50,000 bond.

The story initially involved a bit of a caper. After the Toomer's Corner trees were poisoned, someone called into "The Paul Finebaum Show," a sports radio show in Birmingham, claiming that he poisoned the trees after the Iron Bowl.

"The weekend after the Iron Bowl, I went to Auburn, Ala. - I live 30 miles away - and I poisoned the two Toomer's trees ... I put Spike 80DF in them ...They have not died yet, but they will die," the caller said, WRBL reports.

"I just don't understand why somebody would destroy something that is that key to the university ... It's just crazy that somebody would choose to do that to Auburn," said Kevin Johnson, an industrial engineering senior at Auburn, told WRBL.

Auburn is trying to save the trees, with university officials saying they will do everything they can to save them. However, the reality is that "there is little chance to save the trees," the university said in a statement. The university took soil samples of the area around the trees and found that some areas had more than 65 times the lethal dose.

It's such a foolish act that analyzing or discussing it seems completely pointless.

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