VANCOUVER -- A nearly 3,000-pound jade boulder has been stolen from its home outside a gift shop in B.C.'s Interior, where it has sat for nearly 50 years.

"It's a landmark of Cache Creek," said Heidi Roy, owner of Cariboo Jade & Gifts.

"It's not only important to my family, but the community and the province as a whole," Roy said of the rock that visitors would encounter on their way into the store. "Jade is the provincial gemstone of B.C. That boulder has been in that location for the better part of the 50 years that the store has been open. It's a huge blow."

The thieves took the jade just before midnight Saturday night, according to Roy, and they were organized about it.

"Obviously, they were prepared," she said. "They had an excavator capable of lifting the 3,000 pounds, and it was done very quickly. They didn't even unload (the excavator) off the trailer, apparently, they just lifted (the jade) straight up onto the trailer and were gone in minutes."

Jarrett Fitzpatrick lives in the area and was driving by the shop around the time of the heist.

"I was coming up to the intersection in Cache Creek where the jade shop is and me and a buddy of mine noticed a truck out front pulling a flat deck with an excavator," Fitzpatrick said. "We were like, 'What the hell's going on there?'"

When he pulled closer to get a better look, the thief jumped in the truck and drove off, Fitzpatrick said.

"We turned around and followed him and called 911," he said. "As we were following him down the road, he must have had a buddy up ahead of him that jumped out of another vehicle and came out on the roadway while I was driving by on the highway doing about 80 or 90 K and threw a huge rock at my truck."

Roy's now asking anyone who sees an older-model grey-and-black Dodge pickup truck pulling a flat deck trailer with an orange excavator on it to call RCMP immediately.

The vehicle was last seen heading toward Kamloops, and Roy said she's hopeful that the stone will be recovered in one piece.

"I really don't know what their plan is," she said. "The value of the stone is together in one piece. It's not a very high grade of jade. It can't be used for jewelry. It would be for a few small carvings at best. So, they may have also misinterpreted what they stole."

She said she doesn't think it would be an easy item for thieves to flip unless they already had a buyer lined up ahead of time.

The large jade rock has survived wildfires and flooding in its time in Cache Creek, Roy said, describing it as "a unique piece" and "a memorable stone."

"It's withstood all of the tragedy of Cache Creek, so it would be nice to get it back," she said.