Britain's loneliest sheep: 'complex' rescue mission for stranded ewe delayed as SSPCA face mounting hurdles

The Scottish SPCA say the sheep's overgrown fleece will make it hard to sedate her - even if rescuers can reach the remote cliffs she's trapped on

The sheep, now bogged down by a heavy fleece, is thought to have been stranded for two years (Photo: Peter Jolly - Northpix)The sheep, now bogged down by a heavy fleece, is thought to have been stranded for two years (Photo: Peter Jolly - Northpix)
The sheep, now bogged down by a heavy fleece, is thought to have been stranded for two years (Photo: Peter Jolly - Northpix)

A "complex" rescue mission for a lone sheep cut off from the world by sheer cliff faces is being held off, until it's deemed safe for both rescuers and the animal.

The solitary sheep was spotted twice by kayakers on an isolated shingle beach in Scotland's Cromarty Firth two years apart, running after their boats and bleating. Her sad tale saw a petition launched over the weekend to rescue her, which as of Thursday (2 November) had attracted more than 50,000 signatures.

The Scottish SPCA initially said they were planning a rescue, but on Thursday released an update saying that they had encountered a number of difficulties, and the operation would be delayed until they could figure out how to do it safely. In a statement sent to NationalWorld, the SSPCA said: "The sheep is not in any immediate danger and has ample grazing and water, however we are aware they badly require shearing."

The SSPCA was aware there was a growing concern for the sheep, and it wanted to reassure the public it was doing everything it could - but said so far their plans had been stymied by hurdles. "As the animal is not tagged, we cannot ascertain the ownership of the sheep, but have been offered the support of a local farmer," a spokesperson continued.

"The area where the sheep is stranded is very inaccessible by both land and sea, making this rescue incredibly complex, especially due to the logistics of rescuing a large animal." While the SSPCA had been liaising with other agencies on the best way to access the area, "so far we have not found a suitable solution that doesn’t compromise the safety of the rescue teams and the welfare of the sheep".

"As this is not a domestic animal, both the Coast Guard and Mountain Rescue teams are unable to assist in this matter. We have also spoken with a local skipper who has advised it would be extremely difficult to land a boat in the area. We have been given some contact information for other businesses who may be able to help and we are currently exploring these options."

But even if they did find a solution to accessing the area, the SSPCA said there were other challenges. "The sheep will be very difficult to catch without gates and hurdles and is likely to be fearful and run away. If the sheep becomes too distressed, there is the possibility they may run into the sea."

As the animal’s fleece was overgrown, it will also prove difficult to temporarily sedate it, which would have assisted with the rescue. The charity said that should the situation be assessed as too unsafe for either the rescue team or the sheep, the rescue would not go ahead until safe to do so.

"We have received many kind offers from people who would like to donate funds to support with this rescue and some who are interested in rehoming the sheep," they added. "If the rescue is successful, we will work with our contacts in the local area to find a specialist home for them. The sheep has been living as a feral animal for some time and will be extremely stressed by human contact."

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