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Cattle rustling on the rise

Published On: Oct 31 2013 09:16:46 PM CDT   Updated On: Oct 31 2013 09:17:09 PM CDT
REDDING, Calif. -

Roping and stealing cattle may seem like something of the past, but the west is still wild when it comes to cattle rustling in the Northstate.

"If a person is missing cattle, they call me to help them try and find them," says John Suther, the only special investigator in California for the Bureau of Livestock Identification.

Suther says compared to last year, 255 more cattle have been herded off their owner’s land.

1,317 total cattle between 2012 and 2013 have been stolen, keeping Suther busy tracking down cattle theft culprits.

"They pretty much take a trailer-load when they go into a place. Those trailers can hold, depending on the size of the cattle, about 12 to 18 head of cattle at a time," explains Suther.

He says that a single hall can pay out big.

"You're talking a significant amount of money,” says Suther.

He says one calf, weighing about 750 pounds, is worth around $1,100.

That adds up to a major loss for the ranchers who raise those animals.

Suther says it’s no stranger off the street searching a rancher’s fields, for a quick buck.

"Usually it's people involved in the business, because you have to know how to gather and merchandise these cattle. It's not just like you can take them to the street corner and sell them, like your stereo or whatever," Suther says it’s employees of the cattle owners and even neighbors who steal the animals.

With a statewide increase in cattle thefts, Suther has his work cut out for him.

That’s why both the Shasta County and Tehama County Sheriff’s Departments have put specific officers on assignment, to oversee rural crime, like stealing cattle.

"That helps me with my job," says Suther.

Another thing Suther says is sure to deter cattle thefts, the recently signed Assembly Bill 924, penned into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

When the law takes effect Jan. 1, it would make cattle theft a felony or misdemeanor and ensures fines of up to $5,000 for those who are found guilty for stealing cattle.

"Criminals, they're going to have to pay some bigger fines then they have in the past," says Suther about the new law, which pushes him to work even harder. "It’s a great feeling to find these guys and get them into the court system."

If you know anything about cattle thefts where you live, call the Bureau of Livestock Identification’s tip line at 1-800-671-4327.

All callers can remain anonymous.

The California Cattlemen's Association does pay rewards for information leading to those who steal cattle.