Nearly 200 sheep grazing in the rugged Santa Susana Mountains above Chatsworth fell 200 feet to their deaths Friday morning after being chased off a cliff by two dogs, authorities said.
All but two of the sheep died instantly. Those two were so badly injured that authorities decided to inject them with a lethal dose of barbiturates, according to Tom Walsh, supervisor in the city Animal Regulation Department's West Valley district.
The sheep were part of a flock of 1,000 being tended by an unidentified sheepherder who lived in a trailer on the land, about 1 1/2 miles north of the Simi Valley Freeway, said animal regulation officer Lt. Tim Goffa.
The land, west of Porter Ranch, is often used by sheepherders who bring their flocks over the mountain from Newhall and Saugus for grazing, city officials said.
Animal regulation officers said the sheepherder told them that he was minding the flock at about 7:30 a.m. Friday when two dogs--one black and one brown, described as a mixed shepherd breed--began barking and attacking the sheep.
"He said he was able to steer most of the sheep away from the dogs, saving about 800 of them," Goffa said. "But the others broke off and panicked."
The sheepherder hiked to the Simi Valley Freeway where he was aided by California Department of Transportation workers, who contacted the city animal regulation agency.
"Sheep are very high strung, nervous animals," said animal regulation Lt. Linda Gordon. "Anything that frightens one will frighten them all. It's a chain reaction. And as far as animals go, they are not high in intelligence."
Goffa said city sanitation workers were called in to remove the sheep, but decided that they did not have the proper crane to lift them out. He said the matter has been turned over to the city health department.
"The health department will probably just bury them right there," Goffa said.
Walsh said city animal regulation officers searched in vain Friday for the dogs.