How many Oregon Department of Transportation workers does it take to corral two Barbados sheep hanging out in a Medford field where a freeway off-ramp once ran?
Apparently not nine, as ODOT workers found out Friday when the Great Medford Sheep Roundup of 2013 went awry in an ODOT field off Barnett Road where the northbound Exit 27 used to be.
In the end, there was one sheep with at least a sore butt hanging out near east Medford's Little League fields, a dented sedan parked in the roadway, and an understandably sheepish ODOT spokesman lamenting how they were this close to ending the sheep's nine-month run on the lam there.
"It's not the way we wanted it to end up, for sure," ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming said Friday. "But one of our guys saw them at the Little League fields walking around looking like they're not hurt.
"I guess we'll have to go to Plan B, whatever that is, and it's not this afternoon," he said.
The goat-like sheep have been living off and on in what used to be the northbound exit's drainage area since at least last November, and ODOT workers believe they were abandoned there.
In December, Medford police crews tried to round them up, but the pair escaped by jumping a fence and darting across Barnett Road toward Dairy Queen.
Police consider them a traffic nuisance, and both police and ODOT officials have received numerous complaints about their presence, which many mistakenly believe was some sort of ODOT program.
"We get phone calls from the public telling us to take care of our sheep," Leaming said. "We don't do sheep at the Department of Transportation."
The plan was to corral the sheep and look for any marks identifying an owner. If the owner couldn't be identified, the plan was for Sanctuary One, a nonprofit animal care farm in the Applegate Valley, to hold them briefly until they could be adopted out to someone, such as a 4-H Club teen, Leaming said.
Leaming on Friday arranged for farm hand Jerry Henning from Sanctuary One to help capture the sheep.
The plan was for the nine ODOT'ers, Henning and Henning's border collie Kippy to herd the sheep south and east away from Barnett Road to a fenced area under I-5, where they would be corralled and whisked into a nearby stock trailer.
About 3:15 p.m., the plan appeared to be working. The crews pushed the sheep into a narrow trough near the pen. Leaming himself even leaped at the sheep, almost forcing them into the pen before they darted away.
"I almost had them," he said.
The animals sprinted across the drainage field right past the orange-vested crew, over a fence and into Barnett Road.
"I saw the first one, hit the brakes and thought, 'Goat?'" said Betty Meany of Phoenix. "It scared the bejesus out of me."
The second sheep rammed into her car's left front light.
"I hit his butt," Meany said. "He ended up on my hood, trying to scramble."
Eventually the stunned sheep slipped off the hood, hit the pavement and disappeared into the DQ parking lot.
"You don't expect to see a pack of goats running across the road in Medford, let alone one," said Meany, who took contact information from witnesses in case her insurance agent called on her claim.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.