Cattle rustling an increasing problem

The history of the Old West is filled with cases of cattle rustling on a large scale. While the crime has slowed down for the best part of the last century, it appears that the practice is making a return in this day and age, particularly in the past few years.

The history of the Old West is filled with cases of cattle rustling on a large scale. While the crime has slowed down for the best part of the last century, it appears that the practice is making a return in this day and age, particularly in the past few years.
The history of the Old West is filled with cases of cattle rustling on a large scale. While the crime has slowed down for the best part of the last century, it appears that the practice is making a return in this day and age, particularly in the past few years.
MEEKER I It’s that time of year again when cattle start to fill the lower meadows and truckloads of calves begin to leave the county, providing a once-a-year payday for many ranchers in the area.
With the rising price of hay and fuel, combined with the consistent challenges of weather, there is plenty to worry about in the cattle industry. However, an old tradition has created new stress for modern ranchers.
A January 2013 article in the BBC news magazine called cattle thievery “the oldest profession in the West.” It goes on to state cattle theft — rustling — has been more prevalent in the last three years then ever before.
The history of cattle theft goes back as long as documented ownership, and the consequences for the action have always been severe. Dating back to 1685, one story of rustling is of Don Domingo Juranza, who ordered two Apache Indians to be shot and their bodies left on the trails to detour future rustlers around El Paso, Texas.
The punishment for rustling became more civilized as time progressed, with the standard sentence being death by hanging for the crime. Regardless of the risk, the benefits of rustling have proved to be worth the chance for centuries.
Now, with the recession, desperation and perhaps new innovation, there has been a substantial increase in rustling in recent years.
With the technologies of global positioning systems (GPS), the increased number of roads and the lure of valuable cattle, rustlers have become very successful at what they do. So much so that some brand inspectors feel it will take the cooperation of Samaritans to catch the more advanced groups of rustlers.
There have been known incidents, even in the Meeker area. From disappearing cattle in the last decade to tales of further back in history such as one written about in the 1939 Stock Show edition of the Denver Daily Record Stockman, Stock Show Edition.
The picture preceding the story was taken by a Rangely resident at the time, James W. Eidson, of a man hanging a reward sign.
It was believed that rustled cattle had been brought to the local packing plant and the theft was discovered there. The men responsible were on the move, and their names were not disclosed in the article.
According to the article, “Now the vigilantes operate by motor car instead of horse.”
Just as motor vehicles worked to the advantage of the mid-1900s cattle rustler, technology and even lack of fear of punishment seem to be driving the modern-day outlaw.
In 2011, a man turned himself into the Moffat County Sheriff’s Department. He was accused of stealing more than $68,000 worth of cattle (38 cows and 31 calves from nine different owners).
Perhaps times have changed to make the consequences of the law more enticing then those of the nine ranchers outside the courtroom.
In another article on Fourwind10.net in November 2011, an Idaho brand inspector said, “The incidence of cattle gone missing under suspicious circumstance in the last three months has surpassed the 250 reports of the entire last year.”
The same type of results were true for Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and Nevada.
“Western State Livestock Agencies have put the value of cattle deemed lost, stolen, strayed or in questionable ownership in recent years in the tens of millions of dollars.
In Montana alone, investigators have recovered more then 7,300 stolen or missing cattle worth more then $8 million.” (fourwind10.net)
The increased incidence of rustling brings back the importance of cattlemen’s and stockgrower’s associations, which were originally established to work together to watch out for, offer a bounty for, and protect against cattle rustlers.
The traditional trust of a neighbor and the idea of “riding for the brand” may have worked their way back to the forefront. Ranchers will have to work together to ensure that the integrity and success of their profession continues to overcome the ever-evolving thief.