Copper thieves target Larimer County irrigation pivots

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Copper thieves have been targeting irrigation pivot systems in Larimer County with greater regularity — a trend that Rabbit Creek Ranch owner George Seidel has experienced firsthand.

In the last four weeks, copper thieves cut 450-feet of multi-strand copper wiring from an irrigation pivot system on one of Seidel’s hay fields west of North County Road 37 near Livermore. Six wire segments of about 75-feet each were cut from the pivot and adjacent towers.

The incident was reported May 13 but the theft occurred sometime after April 17, when the pivot was last checked. Seidel said the wires were most likely stolen within the last 10 days since there’s no sign of oxidation on what was left behind.

“This theft is really frustrating,” said Seidel. “This is the worst possible time for us to have a non-working pivot — we need to be irrigating so that we can feed our livestock.”

Larimer County Sheriff’s spokesman John Schulz said copper wire thefts continue to occur on a regular basis despite recent drops in copper prices, now hovering at about $3.25 per pound.

“There have been regular instances of copper theft from construction sites, construction yards and even a cell tower under construction, but also numerous wire thefts from sprinkler pivot systems,” Schulz said. “The typical MO is that the thieves just hook the wiring from the sprinkler pivot to a car bumper and pull several hundred feet out at once.”

Schulz said the best defense for copper wire and plumbing theft is being aware of and reporting vehicles or people that don’t belong. Other tips he offered for reducing copper theft include:

• Locking all gates.

• Installing motion-activated cameras or alarm systems.

• Marking copper wires inside the equipment with spray paint so that the wire can be differentiated when it’s sold to recyclers.

• Reporting all thefts promptly.

Although Seidel initially valued the wire stolen from Rabbit Creek Ranch at $1,000, replacement costs totaled $1,800 for new parts and wire and about $1,000 for the electrician’s labor. Seidel said there’s also potential lost revenue from not being able to irrigate the hay field, but couldn’t estimate that loss.

Sheriff’s deputies continue to investigate the Rabbit Creek Ranch theft but have no suspects at this time.