Every summer sheep owned by Gary and Marilyn Jones, who live south of Peabody in a neighborhood commonly referred to as Mayesville, stay in a pasture a short distance from the Jones farm.
“If we have decent rain and there is grass, they will stay there all summer,” Marilyn Jones said.
This year the schedule was interrupted during the last few days of May when the Joneses found several sheep dead from an apparent mauling.
“On May 29th we found several, but we don’t know for sure when they were killed,” she said. “By the first week in June we had nine dead and two that survived only because local veterinarian Virginia Skinner was willing to spend so many hours working to save them. One was a bottle lamb I’d cared for from birth. It will never again fit anyone’s vision of a playful little lamb.”
No one saw what happened to the ewes and lambs, but Jones and her husband suspect dogs killed the sheep.
Jones said that while the sheep they lost were probably valued at about $200 each, she and her husband were more concerned about the families that live in the immediate area, several of whom have children and grandchildren who like to spend time outside during the summer.
“There are also several older people who enjoy walking in the evening or working in their gardens,” she said. “Everyone is afraid now.”
Marion County Undersheriff Dave Huntley said that people have a right to defend themselves against an animal that is on the attack. He and Jones agreed that neither coyotes nor any other wild animal did the killing.
“Animals in the wild will kill only what they need to eat,” Huntley said. “They don’t kill for sport.”
He also said if people actually see dogs in the act of attacking or killing livestock or other domestic animals, they should call the sheriff’s department and make a report.
A deputy spoke with a family in the area with a large dog and a small dog. He was told the dogs had not been out, but the family said it had plans to get rid of the dogs anyway.
“The officer who came out to talk to the dog owners has been back to follow up and see if the dogs are still there,” Huntley said. “No one answered the door at the house, but he said he didn’t see or hear any sign of dogs and assumed they had been moved or destroyed.
“If anyone has evidence the dogs are still there, they should let us know and we will continue to look into it,” he said.
Jones and her neighbors are still uneasy, not knowing exactly what happened to the dogs.
“It really isn’t over until we know for sure that it is safe to go down the road on a mower or walk to the garden,” she said.
Anyone with information about dangerous dogs should contact local law enforcement.