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Graziers fleeced

Friday, 23rd December, 2011

By Erica Visser

The theft of 70 sheep from a Wilcannia station is just the latest in a wave of thefts in the bush, according to police 

The dorper sheep are thought to have been stolen over a period of months and Detective Inspector Mick Stoltenberg said that police were investigating a number of similar incidents.

“We’re working closely between our rural crime investigator based in the Barrier LAC (Local Area Command) and their counterpart in the Barwon LAC,” he said.

DI Stoltenberg said that the theft of sheep and cattle was hard for station owners to monitor due to the size of most properties.

“They go and do a muster and then realise ‘x’ amount of stock is missing and report it as a possible theft,” he said.

“It’s such a big area. It may have been that there was a family on every single station but a number of big stations are now owned by one corporation.”

DI Stoltenberg said that the region’s close proximity to South Australia and Victoria also made it more difficult to track down the sheep.

“The risk we run is that we border three different states so it’s easy for people to move the sheep,” he said.

“It’s been shown that people will use any way they possibly can (to steal) whether we’re talking about using trucks, utes or cars.”

DI Stoltenberg estimated that the cattle would be worth tens of thousands of dollars.

President of the Pastoral Association of West Darling, Sue Andrews, said there had been a large amount of crime in the region of late.

“The commodity prices have gone up,” Ms Andrews said.

“The closer you are to town the more stock you probably lose. With the economy it’s the higher the stock price and, of course, the higher the price in the butchers. There has to be a link.”

Ms Andrews said that sheep theft in particular was a big concern because of the difficulty in identifying them.

“I think it’s always a concern and probably because it’s quite easy to change eartags,” she said. “If you don’t catch them doing it, it’s very hard to prove.

“It’s not so hard with cattle that’ve been branded but it is with sheep.

“Anyone with a market for them could take them. With sheep you just change the ear tag or some unscrupulous types of people might butcher them as meat.

“They would have to have experience. When it’s hot sheep and cattle would go to the water so if they knew the watering points...” she said.

Ms Andrews said that this type of crime was difficult to monitor but the thieves always left evidence.

“It’s hard because sheep may only get mustered three or four times a year,” she said.

“Most property owners know when a strange vehicle has been in their place. They know the tracks and they can keep an eye out.”

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