Tasmania Police are investigating the theft of hundreds of sheep, valued at $140,000, from the Highland Lakes region over a period of two years.
Police say the sheep were taken from four properties, in the centre of the state, belonging to three different owners, since July 2018 and now.
Senior Sergeant John Parker, Oatlands police, said the thefts occurred within a 100-kilometre radius, in the Highland Lakes area.
"That certainly would suggest a targeted theft, that's been considerably well organised," Sen Sgt Parker said.
"It's been investigated by Bridgewater CIB.
"Investigations are ongoing and active, in relation to those four thefts."
Sen Sgt Parker said that:
- Between April and May 2019 400 Merino lambs, ewes and wethers were stolen.
- From November 2019 to January 2020, 40 wethers and six lambs were taken.
- Between December 2019 and March 2020 a farmer reported the loss of 374 Merino wethers.
- And from April to June, 2020, 130 Merino wethers were taken.
He said while the number of reported livestock thefts in Tasmania was low, sheep were a target because of the rise in meat prices.
"More organised criminals seem to be becoming involved in these crimes," Sen Sgt Parker said.
"They are a relatively small item to conceal and lambs are not hard to dispose of, as there would be easy market for them."
Sergeant Parker said the sheep stealing was the most significant livestock theft recorded in Tasmania since July 2018.
During that time, only 15 incidents of livestock theft had been recorded in the entire state.
That included three alpacas, several deer and thefts of single sheep and cattle.
The theft of 131 Friesian calves, in the north-west, late last year, had been cleaned up, and a person had been charged.
"If you look at it all, we don't have a significant issue, in regards to livestock theft," Sen Sgt Parker said.
"But we do have a series of crimes, at the moment, which are of concern to us."
If you look at it all, we don't have a significant issue, in regards to livestock theft, but we do have a series of crimes, at the moment, which are of concern to us.Senior Sergeant John Parker, Oatlands police
Marcus Weeding, Runnymeade, moved to another part of the state, after losing 700 Merino wethers, over five years, before deciding to move to another part of the state two years ago.
"We were leasing a place at Runnymede, and we kept losing sheep, " Mr Weeding said.
"They were going out the back gate and they disappeared."
The police told him the thefts would be very difficult to follow up.
"There are some logging roads, out the back, and they could take them out that way.
"We gave up the lease and got out."
He said there had been an ongoing problem in the Runnymede area.
"Once the sheep have gone off the property, it is only a matter of flicking out the ear tag, and putting their own in."
Mr Weeding said he'd like to see greater policing in the saleyards,
"The last shearing we had, in October, we found we were were missing 125 sheep."
"The wool was going to be alright, but the profit was in selling the sheep."
Mr Weeding said he had not had any problems, since moving to the Central Highlands.
Campbell Town wool grower George Gatenby said rural crime and livestock theft theft was not a 'topic of conversation," in Tasmania.
"There are always going to be the outliers, but I don't see it as being a front of mind issue, in Tasmania," Mr Gatenby said.
"Rural issues are still littering on the roads, a bit of vandalism to farm gates and the like."
He said he thought Tasmania was quite lucky, due to the high density of its population.
"I used to farm around the Bendigo, and my boss used to lose a fair bit of stock, because he was five minutes from the city.
"On the mainland, it comes down to organised crime, down here, it's more opportunistic."
The Highland Lakes was one of the most likely places were thefts would occur.
"You don't see many people up there," Mr Gatenby said.
"The TFGA has put out an alert, which is good of them, to be proactive on these things."
He said in June to July, 2017, a neighbour had 40 Merino ewes were stolen from a Greenhills property, near Campbell Town.
The ewes, which were ear tagged were pregnant and had eight months wool.
The financial loss was estimated at more than $10,000.
The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association said landowners were also reporting more instances of property damage.
Any member of the public who may have witnessed any suspicious activity or who may have information relating to the sheep thefts are encouraged to contact
Information can also be provided anonymously to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
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