A pair of Barbados sheep captured July 8 after a year on the lam in Medford are adjusting well at an Applegate animal sanctuary whose leaders have no intention of returning them to a Medford woman who claims they're hers.
The goat-like sheep — named Bonnie and Clyde for their penchant to run from the cops — have received a clean bill of health from a local veterinarian and are no longer in isolation at Sanctuary One, where the once-skittish animals are starting to let their guard down.
"They're doing really well," said Sansa Collins, the sanctuary's animal care manager. "They're getting to know all the other critters in the pasture. They still play a little keep-away because they're still learning their routine."
Collins received an email recently from a woman claiming ownership, saying she bought the adult female and male lamb in spring 2012 and that they escaped an electrically fenced area of her pasture after some dogs spooked them.
The writer claimed she made several attempts to capture them but couldn't get help from Medford police, and she wants the sheep returned, according to the email.
"I have no intention of giving them back to someone who abandoned them," Collins said.
The email writer claimed to be a young, single mother trying to "start over in this area" who is afraid to contact police over fears of financial liability and even citations.
Emails sent by the Mail Tribune to the address were not answered, and attempts to contact the woman by phone were unsuccessful.
Medford police have a copy of the email and said they will attempt to contact the purported owner.
"There's no rush. The sheep are fine," Medford police Chief Tim George said. "Another week or two won't really matter, since they were wandering around Medford for a year."
George said the department's community service officers have no record of anyone claiming ownership of the sheep or asking for help capturing them.
"If they were trying to contact us, they weren't trying very hard," said George, adding that he has "no idea" whether any state statutes or municipal codes were violated by the animals' lengthy ordeal.
"They're just escapees," he said. "I don't know what (the owner's) duties are."
After the investigation is completed, it will be forwarded to the city attorney for review, George said.
"We'll figure out where it goes from there," George said.
The sheep had been living in a Barnett Road field next to Interstate 5 since at least last fall, dodging various capture attempts by Medford police and a crew from the Oregon Department of Transportation, which owns the field.
The sheep occasionally jumped the field's fence and darted across Barnett Road, causing traffic hazards. During a June attempt by ODOT crews to corral them, the sheep slipped away and bolted onto Barnett Road, where one collided with a car before fleeing into baseball fields behind a nearby Dairy Queen.
The last attempt to catch the sheep began on the afternoon of July 8 when they bounded out of their favorite field and onto I-5, creating safety problems that triggered about 50 calls to the Oregon State Police.
The sheep avoided traffic, jumped over the freeway railing, and disappeared into the Bear Creek Greenway area.
That evening they appeared in a small, runway-like area behind a Tripp Street apartment complex, where Medford police and OSP were able to capture them two hours later with the help of a Sanctuary One volunteer and several Tripp Street residents.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.