SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif.—The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department is investigating after a pair of hikers reported finding about two dozen dead and dying sheep near Nacimiento Lake.

The Sheriff's Department said in a statement Monday that the owner of the sheep was allowing 700 of his 8,000 sheep to graze in Heritage Ranch as part of a fire suppression program.

The sheriff's statement says the owner had sheared the sheep in February as he always does and when the weekend's major rainstorm hit the area, some of the sheep became ill and 25 died.

One of the hikers, Adam Weismuller, told the San Luis Obispo Tribune (http://bit.ly/1czbmz1) the sight Friday of the dying sheep "haunts" him.