Wyoming Livestock Board officers warns about theft, introduces new investigationWritten by Joy Ufford
When local economies slow down as they have in much of rural Wyoming, livestock rustling is seen by some as a quick way to make some cash. From throwing a new calf into the back of a truck or moving horses or cows across state lines, these crimes affect any livestock owner’s bottom line.
Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) Director Steve True spoke to the Green River Valley Cattlemen’s Association audience during its annual meetings Feb. 26-27 at the Marbleton Town Hall.
“The rising price of cattle can lead to an increase in rustling,” he noted. “Be aware, rustlers can be organized and are likely well armed. They also will likely have lookouts watching the roads. It’s very possible these are people within the industry and familiar with livestock. Night-time thefts are difficult and require that familiarity.”
True described four kinds of livestock theft – when someone “straight out takes an animal and sells it,” butchers an animal and hides the carcass, “borrows” and keeps someone else’s cow with their herd or undertakes a white-collar check-kiting scheme or insurance fraud.
“Livestock theft is a full-fledged felony,” True explained, adding that a conviction can yield prison time and large fines.
Generally, a potential rustler wants to hit-and-run as easily and quickly as possible and often gets involved in “crimes of opportunity,” which is the straight-out stealing, True mentioned.
Sublette County and the Green River Valley can attract the wrong people because ranches are isolated and with extensive energy development come networks of two-track roads – and with the energy economy lagging, the wrong people look for easy targets.
It’s also important for owners to keep an eye out when their livestock is visible and accessible.
True’s advice is to use full-motion video or game cameras – but keep them less visible or the cameras themselves might be stolen. Ask law enforcement for increased patrols or coordinate with neighbors to check on gathered cattle. Also, park stock trailers and lock trucks where they can be seen or lit up so thieves don’t try to take them as well.
The speed with which slick livestock can be stolen and sold is one factor that True said calls for livestock owners to notify his office or the sheriff’s office as soon as possible.
“There are a lot of places for our cattle to go in a hurry,” he added. We need ranchers to let us know as soon as they realize livestock are gone – the chances of catching them are greatly increased.”
He even advised ranchers call his office if they come up 10 head short and report them as missing, saying, “That way we have a missing livestock report and we can check around, and the rancher finds them, call us back.”
“We are only 10 hours at the longest to one of those places that sell non-branded animals,” he said. “In a week our livestock can change hands a number of times.
True said he is working with county sheriffs to coordinate with them about assisting the WLSB with rustling investigations. If a producer thinks a theft is occurring, he encouraged them to contact their sheriff’s office, brand inspector and livestock investigator – but don’t approach possible rustlers and don’t start shooting.
“Don’t put yourselves in jeopardy,” he said.
After making his presentation, True then introduced new WLSB District Two Senior Investigator Ken Richardson, who replaces Kim Clark and will be based near Pinedale. Covering Sublette, Teton, Lincoln, Uinta and Sweetwater counties, Richardson is the contact for everything from animal welfare checks to brand inspection violations and “a wide range of statutes.”
Richardson gave a background of his experience in family ranching, law enforcement, brand inspection, investigations and search and rescues.