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A vandal stole flags at veterans’ gravesites over the Memorial Day weekend at Cold Springs Cemetery in Lockport, and responding deputies caught the thief in the act: a groundhog.

Groundskeeper Craig Kerrison told deputies that about 31 small American flags that had been placed at gravestones over the weekend were found damaged and were subsequently replaced by veterans.

As Niagara County sheriff’s deputies pulled up to investigate, they caught a groundhog in the act, breaking one of the flags with its front paws. Deputies watched as the groundhog snapped another small flag and then ran with the flag in its mouth to a burrow. Deputies counted 12 of the replaced flags damaged by the groundhog.

But a theft at Hartland Cemetery on Ridge Road in Hartland didn’t have such a fuzzy ending.

At least 40 veteran grave markers with stakes were reported missing from cemetery plots Tuesday, according to American Legion treasurer Tom Sullivan. He said each grave marker is made of bronze, and the stakes holding the markers are made of brass. The total loss is estimated at $1,300.

The theft of the grave markers happened sometime after August 2013 and was discovered in a walk-through of the cemetery.

Sullivan told deputies that he has checked with several scrap metal sites in the area without finding the missing metal.

email: nfischer@buffnews.com