Methamphetamine addicts in the American West are resorting to cattle theft to fund their habits, said officials.
Last week, police in Oklahoma arrested two men suspected of being part of a cattle rustling ring which officials believe has made tens of thousands of dollars selling stolen cattle, netting $27,000 in a single sale.
A crime perhaps best known to many from Westerns, officials believe that most of the new wave of cattle rustlers are motivated by drugs habits.
"We've seen an elevated number of reported thefts, and certainly actual thefts over the past couple of years. What is very concerning is the link to drug use," Michael Casey, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association, told VICE News.
He explained the impact the crime spike was having.
"Cattle theft is devastating to small, family farmer-ranchers, where the average herd size in Oklahoma is going to be around 30 head. So if you steal two, three, or four head, that's a significant loss and major economic damage."
Jerry Flowers, chief agent of investigations for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture said that Oklahoma's wide open fields made cattle theft easier, and rising prices for the animals, which can fetch about $3,000 per head, were fuelling the crime spree.
"Cattle rustling has been around since Moby Dick was a minnow, but the price of cattle has doubled and tripled in the past few years, and theft is on the rise," he told Reuters.
He said that three in four arrests for cattle larceny in the state were linked with drug use.
"Meth is a significant problem with people who steal cattle," Flowers said. "We found the presence of meth to be more and more common with people who steal livestock. It's easy, quick money."
With regulations restricting the availability of agents used to make methamphetamine, users are increasingly reliant on more expensive Mexican meth, instead of Oklahoma cooked crystal, with users resorting to theft to fund the habit.