Merced County Sheriff's Deputies say they first saw the suspect on an ATV in the area of Turlock and Looney Roads Thursday as they responded to a call about a suspicious person.
Deputies set up a perimeter in the rural area but the suspect was able to escape. First on the ATV and then on foot.
In the back of the stolen ATV, they found 55 feet of spooled copper wire and more than two dozen brass valves.
The suspect is described as being a white male between the ages of 30 to 35, with a goatee.
He was last seen wearing a grey t-shirt and blue jeans