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Cattle theft reports increase with high prices

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

While the number of cattle suspected as stolen hasn’t jumped drastically this year with high prices, Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) Law Enforcement Administrator Jimmy Siler says that more reports are made because of the price of the livestock.
    “Any time there is more money to be made, there will be more theft,” says Siler, “but I wouldn’t say the number of suspected stolen cattle has jumped drastically this year.”
    Siler adds that more people report losses when the commodity prices are higher because the loss reflects a larger chunk of their income.
    “We have seen a higher notification rate,” comments Siler. “This year, not all the reports are in yet.”
    Each year, Siler says that some cattle do turn up after they are discovered as winterkill or in remote areas, but he encourages people with missing cattle to report their losses.
    “We get notification that people will find two or three cattle, so our numbers fluctuate,” notes Siler. “We would prefer to get the information out that cattle are missing right away. The sooner we can get the information, the better chance we have of recovering them.”
    When cattle are reported as missing, the WLSB issues a notification, similar to an all-points bulletin, to sale barns, brand inspectors, law enforcement and surrounding states to allow officials to be on the lookout for stolen animals.
    “Eventually, stolen cattle will make their way to a sale barn,” says Siler. “With more people reporting, we are able to get the notifications out sooner, and our chances of finding the animals are better.”
    On average, Siler notes that rustlers only steal three to five head of cattle, as the theft of larger groups would draw attention.
    “It is extremely rare to have large numbers taken,” says Siler, adding that occasionally people will report more missing.
    “We have had false reporting in some years,” Siler comments, noting an instance where an individual reported over 300 cows missing. “When we find out it’s a scam, we go back and correct the numbers in our reports.”
    Cattle theft is a serious crime, and Siler encourages the public to look for and report oddities that may lead to recovering stolen cows.
    Situations where people claim to be cattle dealers but never have livestock on their land, individuals interested in producer’s lands or practices, including loading areas and shipping times, or people curious about when the producer is consistently away from their farm or ranch may be suspicious, says Siler.
    “For example, someone driving through on a Sunday afternoon with a trailer and two or three cows in it might be unusual,” explains Siler. “It would be unusual to be hauling on a Sunday afternoon.”
    Overall, Siler adds that there is more public awareness overall on cattle thefts.
    “This year we have noticed that more producers have come to us for more education on the subject,” says Siler. “We want the public to be more aware and to report things. It can be a great help to us if cattle turn up missing and we have a possible lead.”
    Siler says the penalty for cattle rustling is 10 years in prison, $10,000 or both.
    Reflecting on the severity of stealing cattle, Siler adds, “It’s a felony whether you take one cow or 1,000. The penalty used to be hanging, but we have advanced over the years.”    
    Saige Albert is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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