Cattle theft on the rise in California
October 28, 2013
Cattle have become a popular commodity among thieves in California. [Sacramento Bee]
In 2012, cattle owners reported 1,317 stolen or missing cows. The total of stolen or missing cows increased by 22 percent since the beginning of the recession.
“It’s a terrible crime when you steal someone’s livelihood,” said Tehama County rancher Candace Owen, who lost 25 calves to theft in 2010.
Cows often sell for at least $1,000. Cattle prices hit record highs in 2011 and 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Last year, the California Bureau of Livestock Identification returned 1,604 cattle to ranchers. The recovered value was $1.4 million.
“The thing with stealing livestock, especially cattle, is you can get 100 percent of its value, especially with unbranded animals,” said Greg Lawley, chief of the Livestock Identification bureau. “You can load up a gooseneck trailer full of cattle and be in Colorado 24 hours later.”
Cattle theft is often an inside job, said John Suther, the bureau’s senior investigator.
“They’re neighbors. They’re employees — hired men,” Suther said. “It’s a specialized business so people with knowledge of the cattle industry are the ones stealing these animals.”
Suther, who lives Shasta County, is the only cattle theft investigator in the entire state.
Earlier this month, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 924, which sets potential fines for stealing cattle. The law makes cattle theft punishable as a felony or misdemeanor with fines up to $5,000.