With meat prices rising and money scarce, black market beef may look good to potential customers.
Cattle rustlers are stealing cattle from ranches in remote regions of Socorro County, NM, while law officers grow desperate for clues. The rustlers have struck at three ranches in a far-flung stretch at the foot of the Ladron Mountains, between Magdalena and Bernardo along Riley Road. Ladron means "thief" in Spanish, and these mountains are proving why they still deserve the name.
The rustlers have stolen as many as 21 unbranded calves, some of them only a few days old. Investigators say there are no signs of predators - no carcasses, no bones, no blood and guts - just human footprints and tire tracks.
"These ranchers, that's their paycheck", says state Livestock Inspector Bea Bell. "You take one of their calves, four calves, it doesn't matter. It cuts into their profit for that year, which goes toward their land payments, their feed bills, so it's a big problem."
Rustling has been a fact of life in New Mexico ever since people and livestock got together, but police now have one weapon that gives them an edge.
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