COCKEYSVILLE, Md. (AP) _ Rustlers are plaguing the suburbs of Baltimore, but they're not after cattle. Poachers have made off with hundreds of plants worth thousands of dollars since March, Baltimore County police said.

''It used to be they'd steal anything that wasn't nailed down,'' said police Lt. Lawrence Suther in this community about 14 miles north of Baltimore. ''But it's really something when you have to take precautions to protect your plants.''

A McDonald's restaurant has been hit three times, losing more than 100 shrubs and bushes valued at nearly $4,000.

Plant thefts are reported every year, but this year the thefts have soared, police said. Police said they do not have any suspects, but the heists look like the work of professionals because only the best plants were taken.

''They picked the expensive ones,'' said John Koelbel of Hampton, who lost 16 trees and shrubs from his yard. ''The two they left were sickly trees I'm trying to nurse.''