Warrant issued in Moffat County for wrongful branding
September 22, 2011
An arrest warrant has been issued in Moffat County District Court for a local rancher suspected of violating Colorado Revised Statutes regarding cattle.
Monty Luke Pilgrim, 51, of Little Snake River, is suspected 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, according to an arrest affidavit filed Tuesday in district court.
Formal charges have not been filed, according to records.
Pilgrim has not been arrested. It's believed he is out of town. He is expected to turn himself in upon returning, authorities said.
Pilgrim is suspected of being in possession of 36 cows and 31 calves belonging to nine different owners. He is also suspected of misbranding those calves as his own.
Based on a four-year market price average, authorities value the stray cows and calves at $68,000, according to the affidavit.
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Lt. KC Hume, an investigator with the Moffat County Sheriff's Office, requested the warrant after a joint investigation between deputies and Colorado Brand Inspector Brad Ocker was completed Aug. 10.
According to the affidavit, Lonnie Hedges, of Little Snake River, was hunting prairie dogs near Moffat County Road 110 on July 22 when he noticed a cow with his brand among a herd of cattle belonging to Pilgrim.
Hedges returned to the pasture, known as the Stetson Pasture, later that day and videotaped the herd from Moffat County Road 110.
He stated he saw cattle with the brands of several other livestock owners and calves of those cows were carrying Pilgrim's brand, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit also states Hedges contacted Ocker of the Department of Agriculture's Brand Inspection Division when he returned home.
On July 27, Ocker, with the assistance of Sgt. Courtland Folks and deputy Gary Nichols, of the sheriff's office, interviewed Pilgrim in his driveway off Moffat County Road 9N.
Authorities asked Pilgrim whether his herd at the Stetson Pasture contained cattle from other owners and if he had misbranded their calves.
"You know that is something I have got to clean up," Pilgrim said, according to the affidavit. "I don't know for sure. When we branded, we tried not to. If we did, we have to clean it up."
Pilgrim also told authorities he did not pair calves with their cows before branding, according to the court document.
Upon further investigation, authorities allegedly discovered Pilgrim had additional herds on Bureau of Land Management land known as the Gold Mine Pasture off Colorado Highway 13 and the Great Divide Pasture off Moffat County Road 9.
In total, 831 cows and calves were reported to be grazing on the three pastures, according to court records.
On July 28 and 29, authorities joined Pilgrim to round up all of the cattle at the three pastures and separate the strays, according to court records.
Arrangements were made to return the livestock to their owners Aug. 2, according to court records.
John Wiebel, of Rocking J Ranch, owns some of the cattle allegedly found with Pilgrim. Of the 67 strays and calves allegedly in Pilgrim's possession, 30 belonged to Wiebel.
According to authorities, Wie-
bel contacted Nichols after his cattle were returned to him Aug. 2 and said "someone" removed the yellow identifying ear tags from his cows.
Wiebel was unaware he was missing any cattle until contacted by Ocker, according to court reports.
George Evans, of Evans Ranch, also issued a complaint with Nichols, stating two of his 13 cows allegedly in Pilgrim's possession had been missing for more than two years.