Fact check: Viral video of dead sheep was taken in country of Georgia in 2021, not recently in Idaho

·4 min read

The claim: Video shows hundreds of sheep that died in Idaho in mid-June 2022

Some social media posts are claiming hundreds of sheep were found dead in Idaho just days after the unexpected deaths of more than 2,000 cattle in Kansas.

The grainy, 40-second-long video presented as proof shows a startling scene. The motionless bodies of adult sheep cover a rocky, green pasture while the wind whips in the background. Mountains and fog beyond the horizon suggest the video is taken at high elevation.

"Last week thousands of cattle dropped dead all at the same time in Kansas," the video is captioned in a June 20 Facebook post. "This week hundreds of sheep in Idaho suddenly die. Who is doing this? What is happening?"

More than 700 users shared this post from the evangelical political page Hold the Line, with commenters asserting, "They're not preparing for a famine, they're planning one," and, "They're trying to starve us little by little." Another popular version of the claim, from conservative Twitter account @PamelaHensley22, was retweeted more than 10,000 times in four days.

Contrary to these claims, however, the clip isn't recent and has nothing to do with sheep in Idaho. It was taken in August 2021 and shows the aftermath of a lightning strike in the country of Georgia, according to news reports about the incident and the outlet that originally posted the footage.

USA TODAY reached out to several social media users who shared the claim for comment. One Twitter user, who later corrected his post, said he shared the video and the claim from a Telegram chat. 

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October 24, 2021 :  A heard of sheep are guided through central Madrid, Spain. Shepherds guided sheep through the Madrid streets in defense of ancient grazing and migration rights that seem increasingly threatened by urban sprawl and modern agricultural practices.
October 24, 2021 : A heard of sheep are guided through central Madrid, Spain. Shepherds guided sheep through the Madrid streets in defense of ancient grazing and migration rights that seem increasingly threatened by urban sprawl and modern agricultural practices.

Video shows sheep that died in the country of Georgia

The footage used in claims about Idaho sheep was originally published on Facebook on Aug. 10, 2021, by the Georgian local news outlet JNews (Jakaverti News), as the Associated Press and Reuters also reported.

The video shows around 530 sheep that were killed in a severe thunderstorm on Mount Abul, located roughly three miles from the Georgian village of Tambovka, a translation of the video's caption says.

The outlet obtained the footage from Yagor Levanov, whose father owns the sheep, JNews Editor-in-Chief Rima Gharibyan wrote to USA TODAY over Facebook messenger. USA TODAY could not independently confirm this information.

‼️Из-за грозы на горе Абул, пало 530 голов овец

Posted by JNEWS.ge - Информационный центр Джавахети on Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The details provided by JNews match up with concurrent coverage of the mass sheep death, though reports said there had not yet been official confirmation of the cause of the deaths.

Russian news outlet Vestnik Kavkaza reported that a lightning strike killed more than 500 sheep on Mount Abul on Aug. 9. Similarly, in an English-language article published Aug. 23, Indian news site News 18 said the sheep had been killed by lightning and cited owner Nikolay Levanov.

USA TODAY did not find evidence of an event of this scale that occurred in Idaho during the week of June 19. However, CBS News reported that 143 sheep owned by rancher Frank Shirts died on June 3. According to the report, an attack from two wolves led the sheep to panic and run into a steep gully, where many were crushed in the pileup.

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Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that a video shows hundreds of sheep that died in Idaho in the middle of June 2022. The video was first posted online in August 2021, not in June 2022. According to Jakaverti News, which posted the original footage, it depicts sheep that died after a severe thunderstorm in the country of Georgia. At the time, several other news outlets reported similar details about the incident.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Dead sheep video from 2021, not recent heat wave