Dogs decimate family's sheep

INDEPENDENCE -- Jeremy Walton had planned on showing one of the lambs in his family's flock of sheep during the Polk County Fair in August, as he and his older brothers and sisters have for several ye



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Jeremy Walton stands in a pasture with what remains of the family's flock of sheep after nine head -- lambs, ewes and a ram -- were killed by dogs last week.

INDEPENDENCE -- Jeremy Walton had planned on showing one of the lambs in his family's flock of sheep during the Polk County Fair in August, as he and his older brothers and sisters have for several years.

Because of a tragedy on the farm north of Independence earlier this month, the 14-year-old said he'll be waiting until 2012 to enter the event.

"We have one lamb left," Walton said one day last week, trying unsuccessfully to coax the young animal to approach him. "But he's probably not going to do good ... he's traumatized."

On the evening of March 13, dogs managed to jump the fence that holds the Waltons' flock, said Martha Walton, Jeremy's mother.

Nine of their 13 sheep -- including ewes, lambs and a ram -- were mauled and killed overnight. Two of the sheep were registered.

There's enough distance between the field and the house that the family wasn't aware what had happened until a neighbor called the following morning, alerting them to the mangled corpses.

"I'm pissed," Martha Walton said. "The sheep have helped our kids a lot."

Her children have raised sheep for more than a decade for show and sale through FFA and 4-H programs. The Waltons also sell the animals to Central High's FFA chapter to give other youths the opportunity to have entries at the fair.

"Now my kids don't have a project," she said. "And we could have helped four more children."

John Kincaid, animal control officer for the Polk County Sheriff's Office, said his agency responded to the incident. Because nobody saw the attack happen, there were no suspect canines, Kincaid said.

Walton said the sheriff's office, believing it might be coyotes that were the culprits, advised her to contact a federal trapper at first. That trapper confirmed it was dogs based on the size of the prints and the wounds on the sheep.

"Coyotes will take one animal; dogs chase everything and chew them up because they're playing," said Thomas Keck, a Dallas veterinarian. "A dog will kill an animal and leave it."

Keck said he was aware of perhaps 10 attacks on livestock by domestic dogs in the last five years in Polk County, with breeds of the culprits ranging from cocker spaniels to wolf hounds.

Martha Walton said two dogs, a rottweiler and what looked like a black-pit mix, actually tried to get into the sheep pen the following evening, but were scared off by one of her sons.

She thinks these dogs might be responsible, and noted they looked too healthy to be strays, she said.

Oregon statute gives livestock owners the right to kill a dog seen chasing or attacking their animals. Martha Walton said the dogs would be shot if they returned.

"When we're assured that the dogs are gone, then we'll replace the sheep," she said. "What upsets me most about this is somebody doesn't care enough about their dogs to take care of them."



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