I saw lots of new-born lambs this weekend on the way to visit my Granddad in rural Cumbria. Lambs and daffodils are surely some of the most iconic images of a British spring and it was so lovely to see them. I haven’t seen any lambs in Scotland yet (maybe I’m not looking hard enough), which means there are a lot of pregnant ewes in the fields.
Around Christmas time a neighbouring farmer to the Falls of Clyde contacted me to let me know that there had been a spate of sheep worrying on their land. Sheep worrying doesn’t exactly sound very serious however it is the act of a dog chasing a flock of sheep and biting or injuring the sheep. Again, a dog chasing sheep sounds pretty harmless but in fact can be terrifying for the sheep. It can cause pregnant ewes to lose their lambs and the stress of being chased can often kill them. In worst case scenarios sheep are so badly harmed that they have to be put down. This is what happened to the sheep on the farm I mentioned above.
In one case last year on a farm down in West Sussex, 116 sheep died after being worried to death. Many of these ewes were pregnant and had been herded against a wall, and many of them had been crushed in the flock or had died as a result of the stress caused.
It is incredibly important at this time of year to keep your dogs on a lead when in fields with sheep in them and in adjacent fields. Even the most docile and obedient of dogs can end up chasing after sheep. It is not worth the risk and if your dog was caught worrying sheep by a landowner, the landowner is within their rights to shoot your dog.
Laura Preston – Falls of Clyde Ranger, Scottish Wildlife Trust
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