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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dead long-eared myotis bat found outside a home. (Danielle Dagenais/Special to the Aldergrove Star)
Program asks Aldergrove residents to report bat sightings

Researchers are looking to see if spread of White-nose Syndrome in Washington has entered B.C.

Stock photo by Alex Chambers on Unsplash
Langley Arts Council hosting ‘make your own jewellery’ class

Participants will use a saw frame to pierce out their own pendant design on Thursday, Jan. 28

Jeremy Pue of White Cloud Productions. (screenshot)
Aldergrove filmmaker hopes to capture local stories in 2021

Though Jeremy Pue did not receive a Storyhive grant, he is finding other avenues to make his film

Township of Langley civic facility. (Langley Advance Times files)
Budget shortfall shrinking in Langley Township

Staff showed council a tightened up budget, without borrowing, on Monday

Jen Papageorge, 52, with her teenage daughters Keira and Talia are members of the Westcoast Harmony Chorus. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

Inspection of bridge crossing on a B.C. forest service road. (B.C. Forest Practices Board)
B.C. falling behind in maintenance of forest service roads

Auditor finds nearly half of bridges overdue for repair

(Black Press Media files)
Woman steals bottles of wine after brandishing stun baton in New Westminster

Police say the female suspect was wearing a beige trench coat with fur lining

Stand up paddleboarder Christie Jamieson is humbled to her knees as a pod of transient orcas put on a dramatic show on Jan. 19 in the Ucluelet Harbour. (Nora O’Malley photo)
UPDATED WITH VIDEO: Vancouver Island paddle boarder surrounded by pod of orcas

“My whole body is still shaking. I don’t even know what to do with this energy.”

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

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canadian malls, conference centres, hotels offer up space for COVID vaccination centres

Commercial real estate association REALPAC said that a similar initiative was seeing success in the U.K.

Kamala Harris and Joe Biden are sworn into office on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)
Joe Biden has been sworn in as the 46th president of the United States

About 25,000 National Guard members have been dispatched to Washington

A memorial for the fatal bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team at the intersection of Highways 35 and 335 near Tisdale, Tuesday, October 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards
‘End of the road:’ Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos crash awaits deportation decision

Sidhu was sentenced almost two years ago to eight years after pleading guilty to dangerous driving

Cumberland photographer Sara Kemper recently took the top spot in a Canadian Geographic photography contest. Photo by Sara Kemper
B.C. photographer takes top Canadian Geographic photo prize

Sara Kemper shows what home means to her in Comox Valley photo

Most Read