By Edward Ortiz
The effects of cattle theft did not fully dawn on rancher Candace Owen until she got a call in 2010 from a fellow rancher. It was a heads-up alerting her that some of her cows were missing their calves.
The clue that something was amiss was each cow was “tight bagged,” the term ranchers use to describe cows with sagging udders that have not been milked.
Owen soon discovered that as many as 25 calves had been taken from her ranch in Red Bluff. She had been hit by cattle rustlers, characters that for most people exist only in history books and cowboy movies.
Cattle rustling, it turns out, has never gone away. And it’s on the rise in California and nationwide.
“It’s a terrible crime when you steal someone’s livelihood,” said Owen, whose husband’s family has been ranching in and around Tehama County for generations.
Last year, 1,317 head of cattle were reported stolen or missing in California, said Greg Lawley, chief of the state’s Bureau of Livestock Identification. That’s a 22 percent increase from what was reported before the recession.
“We assume this is an outgrowth of cattle price rise,” Lawley said.
In many instances a cow can sell easily for $1,000. More....