Hikers noticed a flock of sheep being neglected and reported it to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department last week.
Deputies launched an investigation at Heritage Ranch in San Luis Obispo County.
Deputies found about 25 sheep dead in the River View Estates area.
The rancher, 53, said he tends to 8,500 sheep. About 700 sheep had been grazing on land in Heritage Ranch as part of a fire suppression program.
It will be up to the District Attorney's Office to file possible criminal neglect charges.