RCMP Cpl. Cory Lepine pictured at BC Livestock Producers Co. in Kamloops, Nov. 16. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)

RCMP Cpl. Cory Lepine pictured at BC Livestock Producers Co. in Kamloops, Nov. 16. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)

Meet B.C.’s only cowboy cop; a voice for the livestock industry

Cpl. Cory Lepine serves as a bridge between the law and those who make a living off the land

More than 80 per cent of Canadians live in cities, and it’s in these urban areas that RCMP and city police forces are tasked with protecting the public, detecting and preventing crime, and maintaining law and order.

But away from the cities, crime takes on a different light – and for that, you need a different type of officer.

Dressed in boots, blue jeans, a button-up and sometimes a cowboy hat, RCMP Cpl. Cory Lepine of the Provincial Livestock Section doesn’t stand out quite like Mounties in their protective vests and uniforms.

Lepine, dubbed a “cowboy cop” by some, is among the last of his kind, serving as a necessary bridge between the law and those who make a living off the land. In fact, such criminal oversight is so important to those within the livestock industry that when the role became vacant in 2015, it was their pleas that revitalized the role.

He is B.C.’s only cowboy cop

When the RCMP was first established in the late 1800s, every police officer was a ‘cowboy cop.’ Livestock, introduced in the province because of the gold rush, was among the largest commodities in the country.

More commonly known as livestock investigators, cow cops combat complicated crimes and issues pertaining to the livestock industry; from stolen or poached cattle to roadkill, land disputes, fraud investigations, and even dogs chasing a neighbour’s cattle.

At one time, there were five livestock members in the province – a sergeant, a corporal, and three constables – spread throughout the southern half of the province.

From 1900 to 1970, 90 per cent of B.C.’s cattle herd was located from Williams Lake south to the U.S. border. Today, this has flipped, putting the majority of cattle ranches north of Williams Lake and into the Caribou.

Price of land is largely responsible for the shift.

Nevertheless, there’s still a need for enforcement in southern B.C. In the Okanagan, there are several large cattle operations; Douglas Lake Cattle Company, Coldstream Ranch, plus several others in the Kamloops area. In the Kootenays, near Cranbrook, are several large operations as well.

Today, there are just three cow cops in Canada – Lepine in B.C., and two in Alberta.

Story continues below.

RCMP Cpl. Cory Lepine pictured at BC Livestock Producers Co. in Kamloops, Nov. 16. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Every Tuesday, Cory Lepine is found at BC Livestock Producers Co. in Kamloops, where cattle are being auctioned. There, he meets with farmers, industry leaders and brand inspectors, and oversees auctions. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)

RCMP Cpl. Cory Lepine pictured at BC Livestock Producers Co. in Kamloops, Nov. 16. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Every Tuesday, Cory Lepine is found at BC Livestock Producers Co. in Kamloops, where cattle are being auctioned. There, he meets with farmers, industry leaders and brand inspectors, and oversees auctions. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)

Industry pleas for a cow cop

When B.C.’s previous livestock officer, Cpl. Ralph Overby, left in 2015, the position sat vacant for almost three years. It wasn’t until cattle ranchers lobbied the provincial government and the RCMP, that the position was brought back.

While a general duty RCMP officer may view a calf killed by a vehicle as roadkill, Lepine sees it as property damage, “just like someone driving through the front door of your house. There’s got to be consequences.”

Based in Kamloops, Lepine liaises between the livestock industry and the RCMP. Daily, he works closely with the BC Cattleman’s Association and Ownership Identification Inc.

Some days, Lepine joins property owners in fencing their property to keep free-roam cattle out. Other days, he’s a mediator in land disputes. Sometimes, he’s a voice of wisdom for other RCMP members during emergency situations such as a cattle liner crash. He also looks after B.C.’s horse industry, of which there are over 25,000 registered members.

Without a cowboy cop, livestock or ranch owners faced with an issue have limited options for action. Most of the time, they either call one of 36 brand inspectors with Ownership Identification Inc. (OII) or the BC Cattleman’s Association – neither of which has the power to enforce on a criminal level.

OII is B.C.’s brand registration and inspection program, which protect livestock owners against the loss of animals by theft, straying or misappropriation.

“Consequently, (they) call the local (RCMP) detachment, and unfortunately, the answer they’re receiving is, we don’t know anything about livestock. As a resident… I don’t buy that as an answer. But that’s where Cory’s role comes in,” said Bob Miller, general manager of OII.

Lepine tackles an annual average of 150 cases, not including those he’s called out to that are either non-issues or resolved easily. He estimates there are between 200 to 300 situations a year that he never hears about.

“People are shocked that there’s [still] cattle theft, and I always tell them … cattle are a commodity. Beef’s a commodity. It’s no different than televisions or radios. If there’s a market to resell it, they’re going to do it,” said Lepine.

With beef priced at about $8/lb, a cow can easily be worth $2,000.

Story continues below.

Cattle ready to be auctioned wait to be ushered in, at the BC Livestock Producers Co. in Kamloops, Nov. 16. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)

Cattle ready to be auctioned wait to be ushered in, at the BC Livestock Producers Co. in Kamloops, Nov. 16. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)

A diverse history with the RCMP

Prior to his reinstatement as B.C.’s livestock investigator in 2017, Lepine worked 15 years in uniform as a frontline officer, including four years as a watch commander in West Kelowna. He also spent many of these years working in downtown Kelowna.

“I was kind of burnt out, I was kind of done with policing … people call you for help and they criticize what you do when you get there … which beats on you.”

In April 2019, Lepine was tasked with a difficult case. Two people – apparently a man and a woman – were recorded trespassing on the Eagle Acres Dairy farm in Langley, where they killed a five-day-old calf with a crossbow. After stabbing it multiple times, they dragged it out of the barn, put the animal in the trunk of their car and left.

After extensive research, Lepine hypothesized the killing may have been motivated by the use of ancient Asian medicine. Identification of the individuals was not possible, and the case remains outstanding.

Numerous times, Lepine has also spearheaded investigations into animals in Fort St. John being killed, and their genitalia harvested.

The future of cow cops

Lepine was raised in a city, but after growing up in Kelowna, he fell in love with ranch life. He now owns a ranch and cattle of his own, and wishes more youth of today had the opportunity to spend time on a farm.

“Sometimes it’s good to connect with your roots. And by that I mean, people always look down on these small towns, but life’s pretty simple … Slow down and enjoy (getting) back to your roots a little bit. It saved my career in the RCMP.”

Story continues below.

Every Tuesday, Cory Lepine is found at BC Livestock Producers Co. in Kamloops, where cattle are being auctioned. There, he meets with farmers, industry leaders and brand inspectors, and oversees auctions. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)

Every Tuesday, Cory Lepine is found at BC Livestock Producers Co. in Kamloops, where cattle are being auctioned. There, he meets with farmers, industry leaders and brand inspectors, and oversees auctions. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)

Lepine doesn’t see his department growing in the future, with with the increasing popularity of plant-based meals, the long-term future of the livestock industry is uncertain.

Ideally, he’d like one more colleague alongside him. Tasked with covering the entire province, there are areas he rarely goes to, such as Vancouver Island, despite the significant number of dairy and beef farms on the coast.

Lepine’s role as a livestock investigator is funded by the RCMP; however, this isn’t the case everywhere. In Alberta, the industry funds a portion.

A proposal by the OII and BC Cattleman’s Association to the BC RCMP to introduce this method of funding fell on deaf ears, according to Miller.

Despite these challenges, Miller stressed they’re fortunate to have their cow cop. And they’ll need him, “as long as there’s livestock in the province.”

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: phil.mclachlan@kelownacapnews.com


 

@newspaperphil
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

RCMPWildlife

Just Posted

Comox Valley medical clinics are all open, including the availability to book face-to-face care (i.e. for a physical examination) as per your clinic’s protocol (most clinics operate a “virtual care first” policy). ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
Northern Health launches virtual primary care clinic

Northerners without a family physician or nurse practitioner will now have access to primary care

Demonstrators lined Hwy 16 May 5 to mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (Deb Meissner photo)
VIDEO: Smithers gathering marks Red Dress Day honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

Approximately 70 people lined Hwy 16, drumming, singing and holding up placards

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

The road to Telegraph Creek (Hwy 51) was closed April 15 due to a washout. On May 4, the road was opened to light-duty passenger vehicles during specific times. (BC Transportation and Infrastructure/Facebook)
Telegraph Creek Road opens for light-duty vehicles

Road has been closed since April 15 due to a washout

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

Most Read