In what appears to be a case of un-rustling a flock of rustled Wyoming farm animals, 48 white-faced sheep that disappeared from a Campbell County ranch in early July have recently reappeared.
Rancher Guy Edwards told Cowboy State Daily all his missing sheep were returned to the pasture they disappeared from sometime between July 10 and July 21. There are still 32 yearling ewes missing from the ranch. Those ewes are owned by his father, Rich Edwards.
Investigators advised Edwards not to talk to media about the sheep reappearing in hope the other 32 missing ewes might follow suit. But as of Monday, they haven't.
The remaining missing sheep are all white-faced, yearling ewes wearing a blue circle paint brand on top of their butts and orange ear tags.
Edwards said it's a strange set of circumstances that people will certainly question, but he's certain the 70-plus sheep were stolen for an unknown period of time.
"I know people are going to say we didn't count right," Edwards said. "We counted them five times. I'm a brand inspector. I would hope I can count."
After the ewes were stolen, Edwards said he found tire tracks near a fence in his pasture. He thinks that's where the ewes were gathered and loaded into a trailer.
He credits Facebook and news reports with getting the word out about the disappearance of the sheep and thinks the rustlers may have gotten cold feet. A Facebook post on Edwards’ Rambouillet page was shared 1,600 times.
"Our sheep were in a 2,200-acre pasture," he said. "There's no place for them to hide and only two water holes. They're going to come to water in July and if they were mixed with the neighbors' (sheep) they would have brought some of the neighbor's sheep back with them."
Edwards said he flew the area around his ranch with a local pilot, but they didn't find anything.
The sheep were found when Edwards and his father were sorting and Rich was preparing to take some yearling ewes to a sale in Huron, South Dakota.
They gathered the sheep and then separated them by brand.
"We cut mine off and got to looking and it looked like more than a 100 head," he said. "I’ll be damned if the 48 of mine that went missing weren't back."
Spooked By The Spotlight
Edwards believes that the media attention made the rustlers nervous about trying to sell the sheep.
"Somebody must have gotten awful damn nervous," Edwards said. "That's all I can think."
What happened may never be fully vetted, but the strange turn of events worked out for Edwards.
He said he was "really glad" when the ewes came back because most of them were bought this year with a loan from his bank that he hasn't paid back yet.
He said the Campbell County Sheriff's Office and Wyoming Livestock Board have stayed busy investigating the case.
He added that it seems "pretty ballsy" to haul stolen livestock back to the same pasture they were stolen from, and it makes more sense to just dump them on a county road somewhere if they couldn't find an easy way to sell them.
When Edwards spoke with Cowboy State Daily in July, he said the sheep were most likely "long gone," and that he believed they were sold in a neighboring state where brand inspection isn't required. He contacted livestock auction yards in Montana and South Dakota to alert them about the theft.
The 32 head still missing are owned by Rich Edwards and are valued at about $10,000.
Anyone with information on the missing sheep can contact the Campbell County Sheriff's Office at 307-682-7271, or the Wyoming Livestock Board at 307-777-7515.