PULLMAN, Wash. — Vandals wishing to cut down an evergreen tree on the Washington State University campus are in for an unpleasant surprise.

Grounds crews have begun spraying the trees with a mixture that has a foul, skunk-like smell. When a tree treated with the spray is taken indoors, the smell intensifies.

Crews began the spraying program about 10 years ago to discourage theft of trees on campus around Christmas.

“We typically lose a couple of trees every year, but we used to lose a lot more,” said Kappy Brun, WSU grounds supervisor. “One year, someone cut down a tree that had been dedicated to a student who died.”

If someone is caught with a tree from the campus, they will be charged with theft and will have to pay a fine. The amount of the fine depends on the value of the tree, but is usually $250-$1500.

The cities of Pullman and Moscow also treat evergreens with the mixture.