VICTOR, Idaho -- Cindy Siddoway's family has raised sheep on the western slope of the Teton Mountains for more than 100 years.
In that time, the Siddoway Ranch has dealt with a variety of predators, including grizzlies and black bears, secretive mountain lions, and more recently -- wolves.
Siddoway says it's the reintroduction of wolves to the Tetons that has resulted in the largest mass sheep kill recorded in Idaho. The deaths happened early Friday morning.
That's when 176 of the family's sheep -- mostly lambs -- died in a frightened mass on a notch in a rocky ridge line south of Victor, Idaho. The animals were grazing on public land in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.
Officials with the USDA say most of the sheep suffocated, while others were trampled to death as they piled on each other while trying to escape the wolves. Less than 10 were bitten. Only one was partially consumed.
Two gray wolves spotted by Peruvian shepherds the next day are the suspected culprits.
"We're putting out thousands of animals that are just sitting ducks," Siddoway told KTVB, as she tallied up the wolf kills from the 2013 season.
The numbers are startling for the Siddoways.
With more than 19,000 sheep, the family's livestock operation is big business. So far, they've had hundreds of sheep, several Great Pyrenees guard dogs, and even a horse killed by wolves in the last few months.
Each sheep is roughly valued at $200 a head, when it comes to USDA loss compensation. That means the Siddoways loss is on the scale of $35,000.
For Cindy -- whose husband is an Idaho senator and whose son manages the operation -- the killings are a continued financial drain.
"My husband and I have been fighting this whole issue our entire lives," she told KTVB
A 'FREAK INCIDENT'
Todd Grimm is the director of Wildlife Services for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Boise. He's charged with investigating wolf depredation in Idaho and documenting the findings.
Grimm says the mass sheep kill isn't anything he's seen before.
"I would consider this a freak incident," Grimm said. "We have had some pile ups from time-to-time, and most of those are because of black bears, and even [mountain] lions" Grimm said.
The reason: Grimm says wolves typically attack in packs, and tend to scatter sheep, not cause them to pile up and suffocate.
Grimm says he's absolutely confident that wolves were responsible for the Siddoway's loss. His reasoning: "We had an eyewitness account -- which is rare -- we had evidence at the scene, tracks and scat, bite marks on the sheep."
"The big question is, how many did they actually bite?" Grimm told KTVB.
Another big question: Will the Siddoway ranch get any compensation for the claims?
Grimm says he's not certain.
No herders have been compensated for wolf losses through Idaho's state-run distribution program in the last two years.
Grimm says although money is made available through the Department of the Interior, it's not always immediately distributed to the state, and has been lately delayed by the sequestration.