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Branding is still the best defense against cattle rustling, experts say.
A team effort
The Malheur County Sheriff’s Department stepped in and Skinner says they put so much pressure on the area that cattle rustling, for the most part, stopped.
Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe says slowing down cattle theft in the area was a team effort by several different agencies, including BLM, Oregon State Police, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the local ranchers who participated in meetings with counterparts in Idaho and Nevada.
Wolfe says his department increased backcountry and aircraft patrols. And, local producers who own aircraft, including the Skinners, fly a deputy over the area several times a week. Funding from BLM helps pay for the flights and the remainder of the costs come out of the Malheur County budget.
About 63 search-and-rescue volunteers also perform backcountry and livestock patrols using county vehicles and ATVs, up to seven days/ week.
Whenever other areas such as highway patrols are fully covered, Wolfe says full-time deputies are rerouted to the backcountry roads.
The Sheriff’s Department developed cards for ranchers to fill out with license plate numbers, dates and times when they spot an unattended vehicle in grazing areas. The card includes a section that can be torn off and placed on the vehicle’s windshield stating that the vehicle had been observed by the Malheur County Sheriff’s Department.
Many producers have winter grazing permits so the air and land patrols take place year around.
Several motion-sensing cameras have also been set up to monitor areas where gates have been previously left open or vandalism to private property has taken place, and in areas where small bales of hay have been stolen. Hay theft, Wolfe says, hasn’t been a huge problem, but it does happen, usually 4-5 bales at a time.
As added incentive, pledges from livestock producers, which as of December 2011 totaled $63,000, are being offered as a reward for information leading to convictions.
Although the incidence of cattle rustling has lessened – from several hundred head to the occasional 10-15 – Wolfe says everyone remains diligent.
“It’s best to use preventive methods rather than react to the crime,” he says. “An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure.”