Farmers in the West Fjords caught 19 wild sheep, some of which fell from cliffs and died, in an action on Tuesday. The sheep have roamed free in the mountains between the fjords Patreksfjördur and Tálknafjördur for decades and four to five sheep are still on the loose.
Sheep, not wild. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
The wild sheep are unlike regular Icelandic farm sheep; they have longer legs and can easier find footing in cliffs, ruv.is reports.
However, Advisor at the Farmers’ Association Ólafur Dýrmundsson said such sheep can be found elsewhere in the country and that they don’t have any preservation value.
It is illegal for sheep to roam free in the mountains in winter without them being cared for. Therefore the wild sheep were being herded. People have criticized the action, one blogger claiming that the wild sheep are “the last descendants of the Settlement sheep.”
Dýrmundsson dismissed the claim as nonsense. He explained that the action is necessary to prevent the sheep from harm.
Many things can happen to them, Dýrmundsson said, they can fall from cliffs and trip in their long wooly trails, or get caught in the trails, which can be painful. Sheep are even known to have lost their legs that way.
In spring ewes can die at lambing if no one is monitoring them. If there are many rams in the herd, they might fight over the ewes, Dýrmundsson added.
Dýrmundsson said that if farmers are willing to monitor the sheep and feed them when necessary then that solution can be looked into, but no one has expressed interest in that. Therefore the only solution is to fetch the sheep and now the remaining wild sheep must be caught, he reasoned.