Wild Sheep Herders May Face Charges Skip to content

Wild Sheep Herders May Face Charges

By Iceland Review

Jón Thórdarson, landowner in Sudureyri in Tálknafjördur, the West Fjords, has revoked his permission for herding wild sheep that roam the mountain Tálkni inside the borders of his land.

Icelandic sheep. Not wild. Photo by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir.

Thórdarson told Fréttabladid that he had only granted sheep herders permission to fetch the sheep with the assurance that the animals would not be chased off cliffs or into the sea as had happened in 2004 and that he would file charges if such herding methods were repeated.

“I emphasized that if the same thing would happen again people would be sued, both the people who organized and executed the action,” Thórdarson iterated.

Farmers in the area made an attempt to fetch the sheep, which have roamed the mountain unattended for decades, last week. Nineteen sheep were caught, but some animals fell from cliffs and died in the action. Four to five sheep are still on the loose.

Thórdarson said he couldn’t see that the agreement had been kept after having watched RÚV’s footage from the sheep herding. He is calling for a report on the matter and explanation on where herding fences were placed.

“This sheep stock has been combed out with various methods on many occasions,” said Thórdarson, mentioning that in the late 1980s the Coast Guard and the Special Forces shot at the sheep from a helicopter. The sheep were bolted by the shots and ran off cliffs and into the sea.

However, in 2000 the action was undertaken sensibly with well-planned herding fences to lead the herd in the right direction.

That time herding was considered necessary due to suspicion that the sheep were infected by scrapie but that turned out not to be the case. The wild sheep stock has never been infected by scrapie, Thórdarson stated.

Last week’s action was undertaken because it is illegal for domesticated animals to be left unattended in the wild year-round.

However, as this sheep stock has been isolated for decades, it has developed certain characteristics that regular sheep don’t have: longer legs and better ability to find footing on cliffs.

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