Livestock board cautions against cattle thefts

Roosevelt County experienced a recent case of cattle rustling that has locals talking and the New Mexico Livestock Board taking action.

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Two people were charged in May with cattle theft in southeastern Roosevelt County and it's sparked a new awareness about rustling across Eastern New Mexico.

A few weeks ago, livestock board members arrested two suspects charged with stealing cattle in southeastern Roosevelt County.

Jose Bailon and Jeannette Bass were charged with 11 felony counts including eight counts of larceny of livestock. The other charges were related to tampering with evidence.

They were booked and released from the Roosevelt County Detention Center on May 18.

The livestock board, responsible for inspecting livestock, received numerous statements from individuals claiming they had knowledge of possible thefts occurring.

"One individual stated he had seen them with cattle in their trailer that he believed belonged to him," said Shawn Davis, New Mexico Livestock Board supervisor for Area 1. "We corroborated those statements and that's how we obtained a search warrant."

According to Davis, cattle tags were found that belonged to the individual who reported his cattle stolen were found in Bass' home. After they found those pieces of evidence, Davis said the arresting officer obtained a confession from Bass.

Bass confessed to stealing cattle and selling them at an auction in Texas, according to Davis. She also confessed to burning the tags, which were cut from the cattle's ears.

Davis said although they were only able to prove that eight animals were stolen, Bass confessed that they stole more.

Bass allegedly told Davis she stole those animals because she needed the money.

Contact has been made with Texas rangers to locate the other stolen animals, but Davis said tracking stolen cattle can take months, if the animals are located at all.

"Cattle are really hard to track, especially being close to the Texas border," Davis said.

Although Davis and other livestock board members don't believe cattle theft is on the rise, they say this incident makes the problem relevant to Roosevelt and Curry counties.

"It's not only hearing about this but how the problem is going and the outcome of it," said livestock board officer Barry Allen.

In 2011, Davis said they had 11 cattle theft cases statewide. Roosevelt and Curry counties typically only see one to two a year.

Even though livestock board members believe it's not as common as the other work they do — animal cruelty consuming most of their law enforcement — they still investigate whatever reports they hear.

For now, Davis says they plan to continue doing their usual county inspections. They will also continue to enforce traffic stops, which is when they check ownership papers of cattle haulers.

Davis also plans to look into other ways of cattle trafficking to become more aware of criminal activity, such as the sale of stolen cattle through social networks including Craigslist and Facebook.

Curry County farmer Frank Blackburn said he knows cattle theft is a problem in the area but hasn't seen any incidents.

Although he has a large amount of cattle near Clovis, which he feels sees a bit more traffic; his cattle are behind an electric fence.

He says he doesn't count his cattle every day because it's difficult to keep up with.

"We brand them immediately and ear tag them," Blackburn said.

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