"Cattle rustling has been around since we've had cattle here,” Wadsworth said.
Texas Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, or TSCRA, Special Ranger Kenny Wadsworth is part of a special group dedicated to helping farmers and ranchers.
"There are 30 of us in Texas and Oklahoma and last year we recovered a little over $9 million worth of property and that included restitution on the arrests we did make,” Wadsworth said.
The top item Wadsworth says thieves are after lately are ATVs. But far more valuable are the animals that often get rounded up by those ATVs.
"If somebody breaks into a house and steals a television, or something like that, they take it to a pawn shop or something like that, they'll get pennies on the dollar of what it's worth. If you steal livestock and you sell it, you're gonna get 100 percent of what it's worth,” Wadsworth said.
That 100 percent profit is what appeals to thieves the most. But the thefts don't always happen in the cover of darkness and it's not always who you might expect.
"A lot of our thefts that I've been worked in the past have been employee related. Somebody who knowns the country, knows when the owner is there and not there. So if you hire somebody, it's good to get a little background on 'em,” Wadsworth said.
Oftentimes, since landowners hire a hand to look after the stock...they don't go to their own property very often. That's something Wadsworth says is a mistake.
"A lot of times, if they don't know they're missing until a month or so later, we're working a pretty cold trail,” Wadsworth said.
He says being aware of how many animals you have and checking them often is key. When it comes to prevention, there are ways to make outsiders think twice about choosing your land and taking their pick of your stock. Adding locks to gates makes the thief not want to waste time cutting the chain. Even a simple sign can make them leery.
"We interview them and a lot of our thieves are scared of that sign. I've talked to several of them and they said if we see that sign we're not going on that place. And I asked them why and they said, well they've got Rangers there,” Wadsworth said.
Wadsworth says he and all the special rangers work for landowners even if they're not a member of the TSCRA. The biggest piece of advice he has goes along with the old saying; trust your neighbor but brand your cattle.
Wadsworth says, once you brand your cattle, register that brand in the counties that you run them. For example, if you have land that is spread out through three counties, register your brand in all three of those counties.
The Special Rangers in Texas are commissioned by the State but they're not paid by tax dollars. They receive pay from the TSCRA, a group that gets their funding through memberships. Those memberships come from Texas cattlemen.