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PRICE — The sheriff's offices in Carbon, Emery and Grand counties are handing out cash as part of their effort to solve a recent spike in cattle thefts.
If a tip pans out, detectives say, it could be worth thousands of dollars to the person who provided it.
"Having a cow stolen, it takes your livelihood away," said Joe Sacco, a second-generation Carbon County rancher who owns Sacco Brothers Land & Livestock with his three brothers.
"It's just like a person losing their job," he said. "That's your income, and you've got to try to come back on that loss some way. You've got to try to redeem it so you can keep operating without going under."
The brothers run about 500 head of "mama cows," Sacco said. So far this season, they're missing more than two dozen calves from their winter range and are still trying to pin down what happened to their animals, he said.
"Whether it's four-legged predators or the two-legged predators that got them, we can't say," Sacco said. "In the past, we know we have lost cattle to cattle theft."
The Sacco brothers aren't alone when it comes to losing cows and calves to thieves. In recent weeks, another rancher reported the theft of five cows and more than a dozen calves, according to Carbon County sheriff's detective Wally Hendricks. The price tag for that theft alone is estimated at $31,000, Hendricks said.
"Ranchers are good managers," he said. "You know where your assets are and they know where their assets are. They understand when an asset like that goes missing, there's a problem."
Having a cow stolen, it takes your livelihood away. It's just like a person losing their job. That's your income, and you've got to try to come back on that loss some way. You've got to try to redeem it so you can keep operating without going under.
Detectives in Emery and Grand counties are seeing similar cases, Hendricks said, prompting investigators in the three counties to form a task force aimed at tracking down livestock thieves. The task force has received thousands of dollars in funds from cattlemen's groups in the region for a reward program.
"If you walk into the Carbon, Grand or Emery county sheriff's office and give an officer something to follow up on that you think is suspicious, you'll walk out of that building with money in your pocket," Hendricks said. "If that information turns into an actual cattle theft case, you'll be receiving a large cash reward."
Sacco said he believes the reward money will help deputies round up the people who are stealing from hardworking ranchers.
"Sooner or later, somebody's going to talk," he said. "Somebody's going to see something and let us know. That's going to help everybody out."
In a region where cattle rustling was once a hanging offense and justice was swiftly meted out on the range, Sacco said a cattle thief could still wind up at the end of a rope "if the right people get him caught."
"Let's hope that don't happen," he added.
Deputies hope it doesn't happen either.
"My sheriff said the other day, 'We can't hang cattle thieves anymore, but we'd sure like to catch them,'" Hendricks said.
Anyone with information concerning cattle theft in the tri-county area should call 435-472-8477, the detective said. Information provided will be kept confidential and reward money will be paid immediately, he said.