Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cattle association rangers ride herd on rustlers

H.D. Brittain's job is to catch cattle rustlers – and he's gotten busier in a sour economy. So much so, he says, because some rustlers are stealing just to pay their mortgages. "Some of these people are out-of-work cowboys," said Brittain, one of 29 special rangers for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. "We're seeing more and more ... people stealing what they need to make ends meet." Brittain spoke last week at an association meeting at an auction house in Cleburne, where he gave ranchers tips on protecting their livestock. He averages about 50 open cases, some as simple as a grandchild suspected of stealing a cow from a grandparent to large-scale thefts of more than 1,200 head of cattle. While some thieves may be driven to rustle as a last resort, others are repeat offenders who know they can get close to true value when the animals are resold. "When times get tough, these guys are going to steal anything they can get their hands on," Brittain said. Last year, the special rangers, working with other law officers, recovered more than 3,900 head of cattle along with other livestock – almost half the number reported stolen. The estimated value of the recovered property: more than $4.8 million...more

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