An unusual crime wave is sweeping through Fresno County: More than 60 goats — valued at roughly $27,000 — have gone missing in the last two months.
There have been seven cases of goat theft since Jan. 7 in an area spanning less than 20 miles, from Easton to Riverdale. Investigators think the thieves are making their move at night, when they’re not likely to be spotted, and rounding up the animals in trucks, said Fresno County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Botti.
The Central Valley typically sees a few livestock thefts each year, Botti said, but 61 animals in two months is highly unusual.
“There’s definitely a trend here, and it’s ticking up,” he said. “A lot of the time, these suspects are using the cover of darkness to pull this off. They can pull up and get through the fence and load them up and go without being seen.”
It’s making the thefts difficult to solve, he said.
“The best thing we can do is rely on eyewitness accounts to try to track them down,” Botti said. “If someone has a camera that captured a vehicle and license plate number, that would help us.”
Kristy Picquette, a Kingsburg resident, found out that 11 of her Lamancha goats, a type of dairy goat, were taken late Thursday from a friend who was boarding them in Easton. Picquette had sent her family’s goats to her friend’s house temporarily while the pens at her home dried out following a series of storms that brought heavy rain to the region.
“When he called, he asked if I had picked up the goats because they were gone,” she said.
Picquette’s two sons have been raising goats for the last five years as a 4-H project. Losing their animals has been especially hard for the boys, Picquette said, adding that they had planned to use money won during competitions to pay for college.
“They feel very violated. They don’t understand how somebody could just come and take something they worked so hard for,” she said. “The bond we have with the goats is incredible. I’m just heartbroken. I don’t know if they’re scared or hungry. … They’ve always been treated so well.”
Four of the stolen goats were recovered Sunday. They were found loose on a local road. Picquette said she suspected the animals had been dumped or gotten out from where they were being kept on Friday. She said the goats were unwell and that she planned to quarantine them for a time. But seven of the goats are still missing.
Although law enforcement’s theory is that the goats are being taken for food, Picquette said she thought they were being targeted for breeding, noting that dairy goats typically don’t have much meat on them.
She’s offering a $1,000 reward for the safe return of her family’s goats.
“We really just want them home,” she said.