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

Edna Whiteley in 2016. “Her whole life has been happy and about helping others,” says her nephew Bob Steed. Photo: Submitted
Nelson’s ‘little firecracker’ Edna Whiteley turns 100

Whiteley is known as a welcoming ambassador for new arrivals in the city

Photo: Trail Times
Trail property taxes will go up 3.99 per cent in 2021

Trail council kept the 2020 property tax rate at 0 % over the previous year

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
67 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty people in the region are hospitalized with the virus, 11 of whom are intensive care

An animal carrier full of bullet holes and containing a dead animal was found near Castlegar. Photo: Colleen Schwartz
Castlegar woman finds dead animal inside carrier riddled with bullet holes

The remains were discovered near Syringa Creek Provincial Park

A lone traveler enters the Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
VIDEO: Trudeau defends Canada’s travel restrictions as effective but open to doing more

Trudeau said quarantine hotels for international air travellers will continue until at least May 21

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson leaves the assembly with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Paid sick leave for ‘hard-hit’ workers left out of provincial budget: BCGEU

‘For recovery to be equitable it requires supports for workers, not just business,’ says union president Laird Cronk

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Most Read