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

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine to Ann Hicks, 77, in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-Pool
61 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

Twenty-nine people are in hospital, seven of whom are in intensive care

Cody Younker was sworn in as a city councillor in 2018. (File)
Revelstoke city councillor requests leave of absence in wake of sexual assault allegations

Cody Younker is accused in civil court of sexual abusing a teen in 2014

Cody Younker, Revelstoke city councillor. (Jocelyn Doll/Revelstoke Review)
Revelstoke councillor accused of sexually abusing Langley teen while school chaperone

Lawsuit alleges Cody Younker sexually abused student while volunteering on Langely school trips

Revelstoke doctor Vikki Haines receives a vaccine for COVID-19. (Photo via Facebook)
COVID-19 vaccines come to Revelstoke

The Selkirk Medical Group were the first to announce that team members had been vaccinated

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

(Big White Ski Resort)
28 more cases of COVID-19 linked to Big White cluster

More than 200 cases have been identified since the cluster was announced

Police are seeking further witnesses after an elderly woman who was struck by a vehicle in Salmon Arm succumbed to her injuries. (File Photo)
Salmon Arm pedestrian dies after being hit by truck along Highway 1

Collision took place on Jan. 15 in downtown Salmon Arm, police looking for witnesses

A cow moose wanders around the Silver Star Elementary School neighbourhood Tuesday, Jan. 19. (Contributed)
Moose chases two people near North Okanagan school

Conservation and dog control attending to the situation

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The sale of the Kirschner Mountain Development for $22M marks the largest in Realtor history, in the Okanagan. (Contributed)
Kelowna mountain development sold for $22M

The sale of the 640-acre Kirschner Mountain development has made the history books

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Emergency room doctor runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

(Pixabay photo)
VIDEO: Tip to Metro Vancouver transit police helps woman 4,000 km away in Ohio

Sgt. Clint Hampton says transit police were alerted to a YouTube video of the woman in mental distress

A woman types on her laptop in Miami in a Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, photo illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
British Columbia government lax on cybersecurity practices, auditor reports

The audit did not highlight a specific threat, but it found breaches in cybersecurity are increasing globally

Most Read