Just days after a public appeal for dog owners to keep pets on a leash when using the Sea Bluff Trail in Metchosin, a lamb was attacked at the Stillmeadow Farm.
Tom Henry and Violanie Mitchell own the farm, where the permanent right of way path runs on – a legacy left behind by Mitchell’s grandfather more than 20 years ago. Mitchell told Black Press Media the farm loses three to five sheep every year to dog attacks.
The most recent attack was on Sunday, around 11 a.m. — a day before the farmers spoke to Metchosin council. Mitchell and Henry were working the farm when a neighbour, who was in “quite a state,” alerted them to a dog attack in progress. It took the pair, along with the dog owner “a while” to capture the dog that was frantically chasing an ewe and nipping at its hind legs.
“It’s their instinct to sever the tendons in the hind legs to cripple their prey,” says Henry.
“It [was] just utter mayhem.”
|Violaine Mitchell’s handwritten note asking dog owners to use a leash. (Provided by Violaine Mitchell)|
Despite a four-foot fence, with barbed wire on top, and numerous signs asking dog owners to use a leash — the problem continues.
According to Henry, dog attacks can traumatize the sheep which can lead to a variety of issues for the animals. Trauma can cause issues with lactation or even for a pregnant ewe to abort the lamb. The whole flock be on constant high alert, waiting and watching for predators instead of grazing.
The sheep will remain in the field even in heavy rainfall, instead of seeking out shelter in the forest because they’re scared and want as much visibility as they can get to see approaching predators, Henry said, adding it takes them up to five days to recover.
Henry says their concerns were heard and supported by council on Monday, and they have been invited back for a meeting on Feb. 10 to further address the problem.
Metchosin Mayor John Ranns says the solution may be to ban dogs completely from the trail. While none of the parks in the district require dogs to be on leashes, Ranns says that with more and more non-Metchosin residents coming to the area, there is a need for stricter rules.
“You can’t have dogs around sheep, there’s too much temptation,” says Rann. “We have to look after our farmers.”