Cattle Rustling Yet A Reality In Third Millennium San Bernardino County

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in compliance with mandates from both the California legislature and the California Department of Food and Agriculture has recently stepped up monitoring and examination of livestock transport through the region.
That activity has included frequent traffic stops of trucks hauling livestock trailers as they transit Highway 395 and Highway 58 through the Mojave Desert.
According to the state, throughout California in 2022, cattle theft increased by 22 percent over the previous year.
Cattle rustling has been a steady phenomenon in California since it was ruled by Spain. By the 1930s, rustlers were using motor vehicles to steal livestock in San Bernardino County.
In many cases, cattle are taken away live. In others, cattle rustlers, acting independently or in unison and most likely from the back of a pick-up truck, have victimized ranchers in San Bernardino County.
There are known instances of livestock thieves rolling up on a large animal, perhaps luring it with a bag of feed, then roping it. In such cases the animal is likely slaughtered on the spot and then dressed out. Generally, evidence left at scene shows the animal was butchered, with the hide left behind after the meat was cut up and trimmed.
Predictably, this type of rustling predominantly takes place under the cover of night.
The Sentinel has a record of one such known incident occurring on the night of July 24 or early morning of July 25, 2018 in the southeasternmost extreme of San Bernardino County near the Orange County frontier. The sheriff’s department was alerted at 6:48 a.m. on Wednesday July 25, 2018 that the remains of a cow were discovered in a holding pen on rancher Joann Friend’s property on Carbon Canyon Road between Chino Hills Parkway and Turquoise Circle.
Available information is that an individual or individuals unknown gained access to the pen, which is proximate to Friend’s pasture where a herd of cattle graze.
While a common tactic to ward off cattle rustling is the branding of cattle, that stratagem does not work against those engaging in field butchering, as the hide bearing the earmark of a local cattle ranch is left behind, along with the entrails, hooves and head.
More recently the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department’s Rural Task Force has been working with Victor Valley Sheriff’s Station and the Sheriff’s Rangers in seeking to catch or deter rustlers intent on bagging more than a single steer or cow. Their focus has been on livestock carriers full of live animals.
That effort has concentrated on Highway 395 and Highway 58.
Highway 395 runs through Hesperia, Victorville and Adelanto onto Kern County and through Inyo County to the agricultural area around Bishop and then into Mono County. Highway 58 from its eastern terminus in the Barstow/Lenwood area runs westward toward Kern County, intersecting Highway 395. Both highways are sometimes utilized by criminals who are moving stolen cattle from one place to another. Those include dairy cows from areas in Kern County and Tulare County that are pirated, carried away and ultimately, at what state agricultural officials suspect are out of state locations, slaughtered for meat.
Under the authority of the California Food and Agricultural Code, law enforcement officers have authority to carry out routine spot inspections of vehicles hauling horses, pigs, cattle and poultry. This includes examining the bills of sale or lading to determine if the cargo carried matches the descriptions in the documentation.
According to the sheriff’s department, “The enforcement focused on stopping and identifying livestock violations and inspecting cattle and documents, to locate and recover stolen cattle. During the enforcement, 18 transportation vehicles were contacted and inspected. During the inspections, 16 livestock transportation reports were issued. All stops and inspections were conducted in accordance with the Department of Food and Agricultural guidelines.”
-Mark Gutglueck

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