One cattle rustler down, several more to go

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“Cattle theft is a unique crime,” says Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Special Ranger Bart Perrier. “Anybody can rob a house or commit murder, but not just anybody can steal cattle. I have yet to meet a cattle thief that wasn’t a cowboy.” State cattle associations often offer assistance to members who have fallen victim to cattle theft. For example the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association offers up to a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest or conviction of one of our member’s cattle or other agricultural related items. The individual must be in good standing at the time of the crime. One of more of the OCA Theft Reward Signs must be posted on the property and clearly visible at the time of the crime.

The crime has been around since man first took ownership of livestock and is seeing a rapid increase. Sky rocketing cattle prices due to a low national beef herd inventory has been a leading motivation behind thieves.

According to American Red Angus Magazine, as of October 2013, Oklahoma had a record of 835 cases of cattle rustling reported – a 16 percent increase in cattle thefts this year compared to the first 10 months of 2012.

If thieves play their cards right, they can walk away with thousands of dollars in property. And all in a day’s work.

While it may be unsettling, Perrier claims the majority of suspects know their victims; whether it be a neighbor, current or ex-employee.

“A lot of times we’ll work embezzlements on ranches where the suspect works for the ranch. They’ll take a few head here and there thinking they won’t get caught,” he says.

Just recently, a Kansas cattle rustler was busted.

According to The Hutchinson News, police arrested a suspect in Hays, Kan., on an Oklahoma warrant for the alleged theft of 23 head of cattle.

The crime has been linked to a Dec. 3 incident in Stafford County, Kan., where 23 head of cattle were stolen in three groups, along with a 24-foot white Titan gooseneck trailer.

The arrest happened after a stolen trailer and some of the cattle were recovered by Oklahoma authorities.

Since then a cache of items believed to be stolen by the suspect have been found in Stafford County. This includes a backhoe, a goose neck trailer, car trailers and an RV camper amongst other things.

This size of the groups stolen fit Perrier’s statements that the typical size of cattle theft is six to eight head.

“I believe that’s a standard number because most people aren’t really equipped, but have access to a 16-foot trailer,” he says.

Cracking down

According to Perrier, there are ways for farmers and ranchers to protect themselves from theft – the most effective being branding. While he says it’s important to have as many identification form on cattle, tags can easily be cut and tattoos hard to read.

“Most cattle that I have prosecuted to the end of a conviction have been branded cattle,” he says. “If any crime goes to trial, the state has to produce enough evidence beyond reasonable doubt for the jury to convict the defendant – 100 percent identification is a brand.”

He also suggests using locks.

“Locks are not going to keep people out, but it gives physical evidence to support a crime was committed,” says Perrier. “Time is of the essence and if the lock on your gate is cut and you’re missing cattle, you won’t wait three weeks to report it.”

Avoiding schedules and neighbor communication is also advised to keep thieves from feeling comfortable at any given time to make a move.

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Web  |  March, 15, 2014 at 08:19 AM

Survalience cameras might be a good idea as well. I know that has been thought of and is no doubt being done in different places. I would think that one thing that would do a lot of good is nithe survailence where someone actually goes out at night, when I suppose most of this is happening, and looking at the cattle. I would think taht if it is known that is being done, it would make a rusrlet think twice about going after that rancher's cattle. Once it is known that this kind of survailence is happening, the word gets around.

NM  |  March, 15, 2014 at 09:20 AM

It happens at all hours of the day. One way we've had here was people going out and roping a young calf and dragging it away from momma and through the fence. Then they were putting it in the trunk of their car. No truck, no trailer, no obvious signs of cow theft. Until the fist one was discovered during a traffic stop the losses were being blamed on predators.

Oklahoma  |  March, 15, 2014 at 11:26 AM

There is a reason that horse stealing was punishable by hanging. Cattle rustling should be subjected to the same punishment.

Colorado  |  March, 15, 2014 at 12:30 PM

In addition to brand and ear tag, I had the Vet insert an ID chip in every animal. I then advised the CO DAG Brand Inspection Division. It work for canines, it should also work for bovines!

SD  |  March, 26, 2014 at 06:41 PM

Doesn't cattle theft usually increase when cattle are worth more money? With prices very high, more people will steal whatever has the greatest value, AND that they know how to handle, in many cases. I'm disappointed that the author does not realize all folks who may know how to handle cattle are NOT cowboys! Some do use the word 'cowboy' as some sort of epithet or description of a person of bad character. REAL cowboys are people of good character, or at the least are honest. They may be entertaining, charming, 'bad boys' at times, but if they are not honest where the theft of property of another is concerned, they are definitely NOT real cowboys.

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