The headline said that $10,000 worth of cattle had been stolen from a ranch in Laramie County. My first impression was, does cattle rustling still happen?

Way back when Wyoming was young there was no such thing as barbwire fencing and cattle roamed free. The only way to tell what ranch owned what cow was to separate the herd by their brands. Rustling back in those days was quite a bit easier. But it turns out that it may be happening just as often, today.

When I read the Laramie County story on my morning radio show the lines lit up with calls from local ranchers telling me just how prevalent modern day rustling is.

According to local ranchers, I spoke to on-air the victims often know the people stealing from them – relatives, neighbors or hired help. But that is usually the case with most theft of any kind.

The callers informed me that most stolen cows are usually used for breeding purposes or hamburger. Many are sold on Internet cattle auctions or classified ad websites like Craigslist. A good percentage are sold to out of state feedlots in those states that do not require branding inspection. Wyoming does require brand inspections for sales.

Most modern-day rustling does not occur on open ranch land. But when it does happen the rancher does not know for a long while because of how much open range he or she owns. It's hard to keep track of so many cattle on so much land.

Local county sheriff departments ask ranchers to keep an eye on any trucks with trailers that could hall cattle with license numbers they do not recognize or that do not have license plates.

Many producers have winter grazing permits so the air and land patrols take place year around.

Ranchers are now employing modern techniques like motion detectors around access roads and gates with cameras attached.

Today rustlers face stiff fines and jail time. That is far more lenient then back in the day where they might be shot or hung on site.


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