Stacked up against pack of coyotes, herd dog kills 8 to save sheep

Patrick Swanson / December 25,2022


ATLANTA (WANF/Gray News) – A Georgia dog is recovering after a violent encounter with a pack of coyotes last month.

Casper, a 2-year-old Great Pyrenees, was standing guard over his flock of sheep one night in early November at his home in Decatur, just east of Atlanta.

That’s when a pack of nearly a dozen coyotes got too close for comfort.

Casper killed a whopping eight coyotes and managed to save all the sheep in his care. But Casper himself was badly hurt in the process.

The dog had gaping wounds to his neck and side. He also lost his tail.

Veterinary staff at Lifeline Animal Project – where Casper is still being cared for more than a month later – worried recovery wouldn’t be an option for the dog.

“How bad are these wounds, and is it something that can be fixed? Or is it something that is beyond fixing? You know, that is what makes the quality of life an issue,” said Katrina Coleman, a vet tech at Lifeline Animal Project.

But incredibly, Casper has healed better than they could have expected.

Casper’s owner, John Weirville, is also amazed by his dog’s recovery.

“I can’t even explain how good it is to see him right now, because I felt like there was no way he was going to live when I saw him (after the attack),” Weirville said.

Weirville is the owner of Ewe Can Do It Naturally, a landscaping business that leases out flocks of sheep to clear away brush from properties, utilizing the natural instincts of sheep to munch on that debris. Weirville is also part of the Urban Shepherds, a nonprofit organization that promotes the grazing of sheep as a sustainable solution for managing landscaping.

With his line of work, it’s not hard to see how valuable a dog like Casper is to Weirville.

According to the Atlanta Coyote Project, it’s relatively common to spot coyotes wandering around the metro-Atlanta area, but it’s rare to see so many running together.

“This is extremely unusual behavior for coyotes, and we suspect that there might be extenuating circumstances,” said Chris Mowry, a professor of biology at Berry College.

Mowry, who works with the Atlanta Coyote Project to study the behavior of coyotes in the metro, said coyotes live in small family groups and they are rarely aggressive.

“In this particular situation, the only thing that makes sense is if there was a large litter this year and the pups hadn’t yet dispersed,” Mowry said. “This could potentially make sense if there are lots of resources available, which sounds like it might be the case in this area of Decatur.”

Casper isn’t out of the woods yet. The healing process will likely take several more months. Lifeline Animal Project is generously donating their care to Casper, which would have cost Weirville more than $15,000.