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Utah County teenager loses 26 lambs in dog attack

Published: Friday, Jan. 13 2012 7:51 p.m. MST

Benjamin is a tiny town of a few clustered homes, an LDS church and ranch land west of Spanish Fork. Most of the farmers and ranchers who have been in the valley for decades have dogs that are trained to work with livestock. But even those dogs will be put down if they ever bite another animal deep enough to draw blood.

"Those animals can roam for miles and they aren't far from the generation of wolves they evolved from," Caras said. "All it takes is the taste of a little bit of blood and the natural instinct will kick in. It's up to the dog owner, before they go to bed, to know where their animal is."

State wildlife officials said domesticated dogs can cause problems even for animals much larger than them.

"It's not that uncommon to have dogs chasing deer and occasionally even killing them," Scott Root of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said. "It does happen, so the division definitely encourages pet owners to have control of their pets when they're out."

The Animal and Wildlife Damage Prevention Team, made up of officers from state and federal agencies, tries to protect sheep, lambs and calves from traditional predators, such as coyotes,  Utah Department of Agriculture and Food spokesman Larry Lewis said. The goal is to keep the losses below 5 percent of the livestock population.

"There is a considerable amount of time and energy spent to protect livestock and wildlife in Utah," Lewis said.

He said if a specific problem predator can be identified, a hunter or trapper will go out to find, trap and kill the animal.

"They can't just willy-nilly start killing wild animals," Lewis explained. "They have to find the specific one that did it and go after that one."

Benjamin resident Jim Caras, father of Clark Caras and sheep farmer with 65 years' experience, said the impact of attacks on animals are hard to overcome and they can make the loss for someone like Kelly that much deeper.

"You don't know how to put a value, really, on what she's lost because even the ones that just got chased, they'll have problems down the road," he said. "It seems like the animals never settle down. When you walk in amongst them they're scared to death of everything."

Contributing: Randall Jeppesen, Paul Nelson

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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