About 20 stolen cows have returned to their Oregon herd this winter, four years after they were snatched by horseback rustlers.

Malheur County Deputy Bob Wroten thinks thieves are releasing branded mother cows that might be used as evidence against them, and those cows are finding their way back to their ranches.

Rustlers in southeastern Oregon have stolen up to 1,240 cattle worth about $1.7 million in current prices.

The Oregonian reports Rand and Jayne Collins lost 150 cattle about four years ago, but 20 have returned.