Rancher turns himself into authorities | CraigDailyPress.com

Rancher turns himself into authorities

Joe Moylan

Monty Luke Pilgrim

A Moffat County rancher suspected of violating state cattle branding statutes turned himself into authorities Monday morning.

Monty Luke Pilgrim, 51, of Little Snake River, reported to the Moffat County Jail about 10 a.m.

He was booked into jail on suspicion of theft, a Class 3 felony; theft of certain animals, a Class 4 felony; wrongful branding, a Class 6 felony; and concealing estrays, a Class 6 felony.

A warrant for his arrest was issued Sept. 20 in Moffat County District Court.

Pilgrim is suspected of being in possession of 36 cows and 31 calves belonging to nine different owners. He is also suspected of misbranding calves as his own.

Authorities estimated the value of the stray cows and calves at $68,000, according to an arrest affidavit filed last week.

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The warrant followed a joint investigation by sheriff's office deputies and an inspector from the Department of Agriculture's Brand Inspection Division.

According to the affidavit, Lonnie Hedges, of Little Snake River, was hunting prairie dogs July 22 near Moffat County Road 110 when he noticed a cow with his brand among a herd of cattle belonging to Pilgrim.

Hedges contacted Colorado Brand Inspector Brad Ocker that day.

Ocker, with the assistance of Sgt. Cortland Folks and deputy Gary Nichols, of the sheriff's office, began investigating July 27.

On July 28 and 29, authorities assisted Pilgrim in rounding up cattle at three pastures and separating strays.

Of 831 cattle, authorities reported Pilgrim was in possession of 67 cows and calves allegedly belonging to other area ranchers.

Arrangements were made Aug. 2 to return the livestock to their owners.

Pilgrim was released from custody Monday afternoon on $20,000 bond.

Formal charges have not been filed as of Tuesday, according to court records.

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