By MARK FREEMAN
The two Barbados sheep that have been loose in Medford for almost a year saw their time on the lam end Monday night in the backyard of an apartment complex.
Medford police with the help of neighborhood residents captured the goat-like sheep at about 9:15 p.m. along the 100 block of Tripp Street, hours after they played chicken with nearby Interstate 5 motorists near their normal hangout where Exit 27 used to be, police said.
They apparently fled north on the Bear Creek Greenway before holing up behind the apartments around 7 p.m., police said.
In the past, the sheep always eluded capture. But confined in the small area made their corralling possible.
“We finally got them,” Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said.
They were hauled to Sanctuary One, an animal-rescue operation in the Applegate Valley, where they remained quarantined while awaiting a veterinary check that will be paid for by the Oregon Department of Transportation.
“It’s worth the money to get them out of there, get them checked out and to a good home,” said ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming, whose agency tried and failed to catch the sheep last month but managed to goose them into Barnett Road traffic and continued freedom.
The animals Tuesday were in a large trailer and isolated from the rest of the sanctuary’s animals to give them a few days to decompress and get used to their new digs, said Sansa Collins, Sanctuary One’s animal-care manager.
“They’re not limping and their eyes are clear. They actually look very good, but they’re terrified,” Collins said. “Barbados sheep are a hardy wild sheep, so that worked out in their favor. But they’ve had a very, very hard time.”
Collins believes this is a mother-son pairing of sheep. The smaller female has an ear tag and trimmed horns and tail, showing clearly that she has been handled by a rancher, Collins said.
The male has no tags, a long tail and full horns, suggesting no human care, Collins said. The female also shows motherly protection of the male, shielding him from humans, she said.
Those all lead her to believe the female was pregnant when she escaped, and gave birth while on the run.
The male will need to be castrated as well before it can be adopted, Collins said. Castration of males is part of the sanctuary’s no-breeding policy, she said.
This latest, and last, attempt to corral the sheep began Monday afternoon when they bounded out of their favorite field and into I-5, creating safety problems that in turn triggered about 50 calls to Oregon State Police.
Eventually they avoided traffic and jumped over the freeway railing, disappearing into the Bear Creek Greenway area.
They next appeared about 7 p.m. stuck in a small runway-like area behind a Tripp Street apartment complex, where Medford police and OSP descended once the sheep’s presence was reported.
Brandy Sewell stepped out of the house next door to see three police officers in the driveway pointing to the fence, so she thought they were chasing a fleeing suspect.
“I thought they said there were ghosts back there,” Sewell said. “Really? You think there’s ghosts back there? Then he said, no, goats.’ It was insane.”
Medford police called various government agencies seeking help, but all passed, Budreau said.
Officers called Sanctuary One, which sent out a few volunteers with a trailer, Budreau said.
With plenty of assistance from neighbors, they got the sheep safely loaded without yet another escape.
“We brought in a negotiator and talked them out of it,” Medford police Chief Tim George deadpanned. “All’s well that ends well.”
Collins said she hopes to get the sheep in adoptable condition by fall. Until then, the sanctuary is asking for donations of hay to feed them and other rescue animals there.
When the sheep get adopted out, they will go as a pair, Collins said. And they’ll go someplace with better fencing than the last rancher who tried to corral the wily Barbados sheep.
“The No. 1 thing for this pair is get them someplace secure,” Collins said.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.