hay bale

Out in the West, hay thefts in some parts have doubled in the past year. Blame the drought. It’s shot the price of hay, grain, and other animal feed so high that some are resorting to stealing 800-pound bundles of hay right out of other farmers’ fields, reports The New York Times. Most of the time, they get less than a ton of hay, maybe $200 or $300 worth (although priceless to hungry horses and cattle). But hay thieves have also been known to load up flatbed trailers and make off like bandits.

According to the Times, hay thieves are particularly hard to nab:

Law enforcement officials said they could do little to prevent the thefts or catch the culprits. Most of the hay is nipped at night along remote roads, from fields and barns hundreds of yards from the nearest home. Because one bundle of hay tends to look like every other one, once a bale is stolen, reclaiming it is harder than finding a needle in a — well, never mind.

One sheriff did figure out a way to catch them, though: He stuck a GPS unit into a bale of hay. Justice was done, but it’s hard not to feel bad for the hay thieves:

Pulling them over, he said, he told the driver, “We need to talk about that hay bale you’ve got there.” … Before being arrested, the driver offered a plea.

“He just hung his old head and said, ‘Can I take it back?’” Mr. Whittington said. “And I said, ‘No.’”

Hm. Unlikely to soon be a thrilling heist film starring George Clooney.