Mendocino County authorities are investigating a grisly discovery made in the inland community of Calpella that at first indicated two powerful dogs had attacked and killed a man on the side of the road, authorities said.

Further examination suggested the unidentified victim already was dead when a rottweiler and a pitbull began chewing on his remains in a clearing off North State Street, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department said.

A passerby reported the alarming scenario at 10:41 a.m. Friday after spotting the dogs standing over the man in a clearing on the east side North State Street, south of a nearby trailer park, sheriff's Capt. Greg Van Patten said.

The dogs appeared to be attacking the man, authorities said.

An animal control officer who arrived at the scene yelled at the dogs to try to get their attention, prompting the rottweiler to charge aggressively at the officer, authorities said.

The officer shot the dog, which fled a short distance and died, they said.

The white pitbull ran off and had not been located late Friday afternoon despite an extensive search, Van Patten said.

The animal control officer determined that the man already was dead, and investigators believe the dogs likely set on him after his death, Van Patten said.

An initial examination failed to point to an obvious cause, he said. An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday.

The deceased man, perhaps in his 40s, had no identification on him, and may be linked to a sleeping bag found a short distance away amid some bushes, Van Patten said.

He also had some clothing alongside him, though investigators still have much more to do to determine what happened, he said.

The rottweiler had a collar but no microchip or tag, he said. It was taken to animal control for a necropsy.

Van Patten said detectives received a tip suggesting someone in the trailer park might own the dogs, but authorities had been unable to find anyone home as of about 5 p.m. Friday.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call sheriff's tip line at (707) 234-2100.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or