Stranded alone for two years on the foothills of the Scottish Highlands, a sheep, now known as Fiona, watched as people kayaked past her, bleating for their attention.
Hearing the pleas of Britain’s “loneliest sheep,” a team of five men armed with heavy machinery embarked on a daring rescue mission, lifting the shaggy-fleeced creature up the steep wall of a steep 820-foot cliff.
Keep reading to learn about the Fiona’s rescue!
In 2021, Scotland’s Jillian Turner was kayaking with a group of friends when she first spotted the lonely sheep, wandering at the foot of the cliffy Highlands.
Recalling her first sighting of the animal, Turner said she saw the ewe on a gravel beach, lining a steep, rocky coastline.
“She saw us coming and was calling to us along the length of the beach following our progress until she could go no further. She finally turned back, looking defeated,” Turner said.
Knowing that sheep are skilled climbers, the woman explained she wasn’t too concerned and thought the creature would find her way back to the fields at the top of the cliffs.
But, when she kayaked past the same beaches in October 2023, she was shocked to see the animal was still there.
“She called out on our approach and once again followed the group along the shore jumping from rock to rock, calling to us the whole way,” Turned said, explaining that this time, the ewe’s fleece was overgrown, and dragging on the ground behind her.
She added, “The poor ewe has been on her own for at least two years – for a flock animal that has to be torture, and she seemed desperate to make contact with us on the two occasions we’ve gone past her.”
Looking for support, Turner contacted the Scottish SPCA, that said there was “ample grazing in the area,” and it was unable to make the “incredibly complex” rescue.
On November 4, a group of five farmers – led by sheep shearer Cammy Wilson – took on the risky challenge of using “heavy equipment” to lift the ewe up a steep slope.
The “epic” mission involved a winch mounted on a truck parked at the top of the cliff, 820-feet above the sheep, 660 feet of rope and a sling made from a feed bag.
One farmer provided vital drone footage of the cliffs, allowing the men to map out their rescue.
Two of the men perched on top of the cliff operated the winch while three others were lowered down the steep rocky wall, where they found Fiona in a cave.
“She was so chill, it was unbelievable,” Wilson said about her cooperation. “I was amazed by how relaxed this sheep was, no panting or panic. It was almost as though she thought ‘Get me out of here.’ It’s rare a sheep acts like that.”
And though at one point, the men feared the bag carrying Fiona was ripping, it held her weight – she had been eating well – and they were able to safely lift her to the plateau at the top.
“The rescue was epic!” writes the rescuers, adding to the Facebook post of The Sheep Game that the sheep is now living at a local farm park, where she’ll be in the company of a friendly flock of animals.
She’s named Fiona after the ogre princess in Shrek, who was rescued by her prince.
Wilson explains, “There was a sheep called Shrek in Australia that was living in caves for years so this is the Scottish version.”
People around the world were invested in Fiona’s rescue. Commenting on the Facebook post that shows the ewe, netizens gushed over the team from The Sheep Game that brought Fiona to safety.
One user writes, “All these organisations couldn’t sort out her rescue, and five salt of the earth Scots, a big ATV (all-terrain vehicle) and a long rope got it done. Well done!” A second shares, “Omg I’m soooo delighted. Fair play lads. Can’t wait to see her shorn. Keep up the great work from Ireland.”
A third cyber fan chimes in, “OMG so excited thank you so much from across the world in Australia where we have been following her journey. Can’t wait to see her snuggled up with her new pals in her new home Fantastic News !!! You are all wonderful people to be able to accomplish this for her and those worrying about her Thank you.”
Her landing is a mystery
How Fiona landed on the rocky beach is still a mystery.
“In hindsight, luck was the key factor of the day. It was great to come out with no mistakes and the sheep being happy and healthy…because the stress could have killed her. Thankfully she was totally relaxed,” Wilson said.
The Scottish SPCA was on site when the rescue took place. The organization said it didn’t have the tools to safely make the rescue: “This is not something our inspectorate have the equipment to do, so we were not involved in the rescue itself.” After Fiona’s paws were on more forgiving terrain, the group immediately checked the sweet animal and said she’s in great physical condition, only needing to be sheared.
On Sunday, Fiona appeared to be “in fantastic condition,” well coiffed and “slightly overweight.”
Wilson adds, “So sometimes you just need a group of idiots to get a job done. We got a great result today, but a slip of a foot and we would have just been fools with good intentions.”
A huge thank you to the rescue team who risked their own lives on that steep cliff wall to save Fiona! She must be so happy now that she’s with her new family and we hope she enjoys many years in her new community of animals!
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