MEDUSA, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A local farmer was shocked to find seven dead sheep on his property.
Susan Lewis woke up to find seven of her 15 beloved sheep lying mutilated and lifeless across the pasture.
“Came out to feed them before I go to work and noticed one was laying down on its side. I thought she had gotten sick, so I hopped over the fence and that’s when I noticed the rest of the bodies around the field,” she said.
The sheep suffered from bites to the neck and thighs. Some had their legs torn off, and another had its head severed.
Susan’s father, David, has been raising sheep for the last 70 years and taught his daughters the way. The sheep, along with her dog and cats, are her pets. David told NEWS10 ABC he has never seen this type of carnage.
Susan added that six of those seven sheep were pregnant. An eighth sheep was also badly bitten in the neck but survived.
“One up there, the head is off,” said David.
The remaining sheep are now noticeably traumatized and skittish.
Susan and her father told NEWS10, for more than one reason, they think this was the work of a mountain lion(s), including the size and shape of the paw prints, the ability to jump the fence, and the fact that they didn’t hear any noise Tuesday night.
They said they even keep the windows open at night during lambing season to hear if any of the mothers are in distress.
“You don’t ever hear a thing from a mountain lion. They’re so elusive and quiet. Coyotes are crazy. They howl all the time,” said David.
The family called in the Albany County Sheriff’s Office and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to investigate.
Bob Benson, with DEC, said their investigation showed that it was clearly a pack of coyotes.
“What happens here typically in this situation is the adults will back off from the kill and the younger coyotes will learn how to hunt and kill. That’s why it’s such a chaotic scene up there,” said Benson.
“They did remove a head from one of the animals and take it with them, which is typical of a coyote, not a mountain lion,” said Benson.
He went on to say that the way in which the predators fed on the carcasses had the markings of a coyote as well.
“A mountain lion would open up the cavity and eat the viscera. That’s the good stuff for the lion and none of that took place here,” said Benson.
New York is not known to have a population of mountain lions, but Benson said there was a confirmed sighting back in 2005.
“We will never rule out that one might move through, so we will always take these things seriously and investigate,” said Benson.
The Lewis family is still convinced it was a mountain lion. They tell NEWS10 they’ve seen mountain lions in the area and that property owners down the road have allegedly captured mountain lions on their trail cams in the past.
“Nobody believes us,” David said.
Whatever the case may be, they are warning others to be cautious as this also happened just a feet away from their home.
“Makes me worry about domestic animals,” said Susan.
DEC recommends high, thick fences that are preferably topped with barbed wire or an electrical fence.
The next step for Susan and David is burying the seven animals, something that will be made difficult by the record cold temperatures hardening the ground.
The Lewisdale Farm has been in the family since 1899. Their property is located off Sayre Road in Medusa, a hamlet in the Town of Rensselaerville.