Over the last 20 years, the number of sheep in the U.S. has plummeted by half. The sheep industry has actually been declining since the late 1940s, when it hit its peak.

The sharp drop in production has left ranchers to wonder, "When are we going to hit the bottom?"

Some sheep are raised for their wool, others primarily for food. Consumption of both products — lamb meat and wool — have been declining in the U.S.

Jim and Jamie Dutcher / The Hidden Life of Wolves

State wildlife officials have confirmed that wolves killed 31 sheep on a south-central Idaho ranch over the weekend. 

Carey-area rancher John Peavey tells the Idaho Mountain Express that the ewe, one lamb and two that weren't born were also killed Sunday morning.

Idaho Wildlife Services State Director Todd Grimm says the final mortality count for kills on May 10 and May 12 was 13 ewes and 18 lambs.

Peavey says a state Fish and Game representative determined wolves were to blame. Idaho Wildlife Services has a kill order on at least two wolves in the area.

Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

A bill before an agriculture committee in the Idaho Legislature aims to keep shepherds from abandoning their flocks. The state's wool industry still relies on old-fashioned sheep herders but some are leaving those positions for better jobs. Now, the bill has hit a nerve with immigrant rights groups.

Scott Ki / Boise State Public Radio

Sheep grazing along trails is a rite of spring in the Boise foothills, so are the White Great Pyrenees dogs that protect them. 

Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission spokesman Steve Stuebner says it's important to keep pets leashed up to avoid a confrontation with the guard dogs.   "And then if you’re on a mountain bike and you come up to the sheep, it’s a good idea to dismount from your bike and get off your bike and walk through the sheep."