Updated at 6:25 p.m. Sept. 17:
As reports of loose sheep on Interstate 215 in the Murrieta-Menifee area continued to come in Monday, an animal control official said authorities will take steps to find the responsible owner.
"Today our officer responded right away; it is illegal for any animal to be on any highway," said Willa Bagwell, director of Animal Friends of the Valleys, which is contracted as the animal control agency for southwest Riverside County cities.
Bagwell said sheep were reported in the same area about two weeks ago. At that time, an animal control officer responded but did not find any loose sheep. Therefore, the owner was not cited, she said.
When the officer responded Monday, all sheep were enclosed and CHP had already left the scene, Bagwell told Patch.
But as reports continued to come in of sheep sightings, Bagwell said AFV intends to locate the owner. If they can verify loose sheep, the owner will be cited, she said.
"I think we need to visit this man because someone is going to get hurt," Bagwell said.
Earlier Monday, a sheep that got loose from a fenced area along I-215 in Murrieta was back where he belonged, according to a CHP officer who was on scene.
Motorists were forced to slow down when the sheep was spotted going in and out of lanes and meandering along the right shoulder.
The sighting was initially reported at about 3:11 p.m. in the southbound lanes between Scott and Clinton Keith roads in Murrieta, according to the California Highway Patrol website.
A caller reported a "300-pound black and white sheep," according to CHP.
The sheep apparently made its way out from behind a fenced area where a herd is being kept.
"There is one sheep who decided he wanted to come outside the fence and go on a tour," said CHP motorcycle Officer Randy Cooper.
About 50 minutes after the sheep was first spotted, Cooper said it was safely back within the fenced area once the sheepherder became aware of the situation.
It might not have turned out so well, he said.
"Any time anything gets in the lanes it poses a hazard to all motorists because people overreact—to something as big as a sheep or as small as a squirrel," Cooper said. "Catastrophic things can happen."
A group of sheep were spotted near the same area on Sunday.
Cooper told Patch he responded to that call as well, which he said initially was dispatched to be on Interstate 15.
"We had a report of about 100 sheep out here," Cooper said.
The sheep are apparently getting out of a gap in the fenced area, he said.
"As long as these sheep are here, they will find a way out. They are not dumb animals."
In the event it happens again—or in any similar situation—Cooper advised drivers to "apply the brakes as smoothly as you can and not jerk the wheel left or right."
"If you hit an animal square you may damage your vehicle but you're not going to kill the animal," Cooper said. "But if you start jerking wheels that is when something really ugly can happen."
CHP had not tracked down the owner of the property or the herd owner yet, according to Cooper.
"I would think if anything happens to these sheep or a motorist, I would think there would be some liability there."
—Daniel Lane contributed to this report (and helped get the sheep to safety).