Police are investigating five swastikas spray-painted on trees at the Olson Woods Bird Sanctuary in Darien near the Stamford border.

The report was made Sunday, July 19, by a 16-year-old Darien girl who said she had not seen the symbols the day before, Darien Police Detective Mark Cappelli said.

Police reported the vandalism to the Darien Land Trust, Cappelli said. The trust owns the sanctuary, which is accessible by Heather Lane and Echo Drive North.

Three of the swastikas remained Monday, July 27, on trees along a wooded path in the preserve near the Heather Lane entrance.

Leaders of the Land Trust inspected the damage last week and hope to remove the graffiti soon but are taking steps to ensure the trees are not harmed further, said Shirley Nichols, executive director of the Darien Land Trust said.

“We’ve contacted an arborist about what products we could use, if any, and to talk about how long it would be before it comes off the trees,” Nichols said. “We would like to remove it if possible if it can be done without hurting the trees.”

In general, vandalism is rare throughout the more than 200 acres of land, which the trust holds conservation easements on or owns, she said.

“Obviously we don’t like it and we would certainly contact police if we saw someone actively defacing the trees,” Nichols said. “Vandalism doesn’t happen very frequently.”

Access to the sanctuary is through a wooden post gate, and is permitted from dawn until dusk, but there have been instances of youth hanging out at the sanctuary at night.

Josh Sayles, assistant director for the Anti-Defamation League’s Connecticut office, said the use of the swastika symbol associated with the Nazis is offensive and disturbing not only to Jews, but reflects a range of hate toward African-Americans and other ethnic groups as well as gays.

“You don’t judge a community by the bad things that happen there, you judge them by how they respond to those things,” Sayles said. “I would hope the Darien community will come out letting people know this type of behavior is not tolerated in their community.”

Sayles said he is confident Darien police will do what they can to find the vandal.

In the spring and summer of 2008, the area experienced a rash of similar graffiti vandalism — including swastikas — in Darien, New Canaan and Wilton.

At the Wee Burn Country Club, a swastika and a racial slur were dug into the fifth green of Wee Burn Country Club on Hollow Tree Ridge Road, with the perpetrators using two flag poles from the course to create the image.

In July 2008 in New Canaan, an employee of the Outback Teen Center reported that swastikas were drawn in permanent marker on parking space divider lines.

The same month, a Maryland resident called the Wilton High School principal to report nine anti-Semitic images posted on a public Jewish Facebook group, allegedly by a Wilton teen. The images included a swastika, Hitler and a drawing of a black man and a racial slur.