Oregon ranchers hit by rustlers finding a surprise this winter: returning cows

One of the problems with Christopher Columbus style ranching.

Good animal husbandry by the "original stewards of the land" © Ken Cole
Good animal husbandry by the "original stewards of the land" © Ken Cole

You put them out in the spring then “discover” them in the winter.

Poor animal husbandry in remote areas can lead to all kinds of problems for ranchers, cattle, wildlife, and habitat alike. It’s just one reason that these Great Basin desert areas are unsuitable for cattle grazing in the first place. It’s a desert and cattle grazing requires a huge amount of land just to support one cow. There often isn’t enough water for the cattle and the plants and landscape of the Great Basin did not evolve with large ungulates like bison or cattle so they are easily damaged by the presence of cattle.

Here, the ranchers are complaining about rustlers. This is probably a widespread problem throughout the arid West but, as you can see from the article, the ranchers are reporting sightings of wolves in the area. I’m sure that once any sighting is confirmed the hysteria will quickly focus on wolves rather than rustlers as a cause for their woes.

Oregon ranchers hit by rustlers finding a surprise this winter: returning cows.
By Richard Cockle – The Oregonian


  1. Ann Sydow Avatar
    Ann Sydow

    Ranchers need to employ riders and other methods to deter predators and Keep their livestock off of public land. If they employed riders they wouldn’t lose any animals to rustlers either. If they can’t figure out or won’t protect their “investment” then they shouldn’t be ranching.

    1. Save bears Avatar

      Ann, do you have an alarm on your home and your vehicle?

      1. Jeff N. Avatar
        Jeff N.

        Where are you going with this SB? I’m curious and I’m being serious…analogy please.

  2. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Quite a whodunit.
    I spent a summer back in 1967 in Owyhee County doing a deer survey for the IDFG. I had a hard time walking anywhere, because I was always driving a herd of dust producing cows everywhere I went.
    The cows had eaten most of the grass by mid-August and were eating the bitterbrush and other deer food in order to survive the rest of the summer. Owyhee country was over grazed then and I’m sure it still is.
    These ranchers need to look close to home to find the rustlers. If the stolen cows are coming back, someone just opened a gate and let them go after getting a couple of calves from each cow.
    I would look for the most pious acting rancher or law officer in the area and take a look at their home ranch to see what brands are on the cows. The easiest way to steal cows from your neighbors is just to round them up with your own stock when you bring them in from the range.
    No one would take the risk of trucking stolen cattle back out on the range.

    1. Daniel Berg Avatar
      Daniel Berg

      Don’t they just want the calves? I thought holding onto branded cattle would be more of a risk then getting rid of them after they get their hands on the unbranded calves?

      1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

        Some of those ranches are very remote and it would be easy to hide some rustled cows.
        When I worked for the IDFG out in that area, I was told to avoid an area east of Juniper Mountain because of a dangerous rancher that operated there.
        The word was, that he had branded his own daughter because she was seeing a boy he didn’t like. He had threatened to shoot any IDFG personel he found near his ranch. He was probably hiding some stolen cows.

      2. Brian Ertz Avatar

        the last time i was out in owhyee the cowboy rolled up in his nice truck, walked out and took a look at all of us, shook everyone’s hand but our female friend who was there with us, which was quite awkward given she attempted to initiate the pleasantry. he just looked down at her hand.

        cowboys don’t shake hands with females in owyhee country.

  3. Craig Avatar

    I was driving through La Grande today and saw two wolves not more than 200 yards off the highway near a herd of cattle. Both Grey and the cattle have started calving. No ranchers or anyone around just Wolves and cattle out in the fields just 1/2 mile before the rest area. First time I seen Wolves there, seen lots of Coyotes but was surprised wolves were that close to town.

  4. Woody Avatar

    The same author, Richard Cockle, has another article on NE Oregon wolves. Discussing whether the they are grey or Canadian wolves and differences between. Lots of comments.

    Thanks for the link Woodie, although it seems we posted a similar article (maybe slightly different quotes). Webmaster

  5. BobofWyoming Avatar

    Isn’t it “likely” that the ranchers just didn’t or couldn’t find all their cattle so they claim them as stolen? How hard do they really look when the cows are on public lands?


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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Ken Cole