Rare sheep flock is ‘still stressed’ after New Year’s Eve dog attack

National Trust Ranger Andrew Capell with his flock of rare breed conservation sheep in Hasketon

National Trust Ranger Andrew Capell says his rare breed sheep flock is still traumatised after a sheep worrying incident in the New Year - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

A National Trust ranger has warned of the devastating effects of sheep worrying on flocks after a traumatic incident over the festive break.

Shepherd Andrew Capell looks after nationally-important sites at Sutton Hoo, Dunwich and at Orfordness where rare breed sheep are used to graze the landscape and maintain it.

Prolonged spells in lockdown have prompted more householders to become dog owners — and has also resulted in an upsurge in country walks.

The net effect has been a reported rise in sheep worrying incidents with Suffolk police reporting more since the first lockdown in spring of 2020 and insurers NFU Mutual also seeing a big rise across East Anglia and the UK.

“This is close to my heart having had an attack and knowing of so many others that have happened in the last six months,” said Mr Capell.

He spent two hours on New Year’s Eve with a vet sowing a sheep back together after a  dog attack at Dunwich.

“The sheep was in a field with no footpath in it. People can walk round the outside of the field and many do with dogs of leads,” he said. “The dog or dogs would have had to jump the fence to get to the sheep. Lucky for the sheep it was before are daily checks so was spotted and we could save it. 

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“It scares me as my Whitefaced Woodland ewes are up there and with them being so rare to have a ewe killed is a big loss. We are working with the police and have been given some signs which we have put up. The sheep are still stressed by the attack and when ever they see a dog or hear one you can just tell by the way they flock together it’s still in their minds.

“The message needs to get out there that when dogs are near livestock it has to be on a short lead, even if you are not in the field. Dogs can and will jump a fence or go under a gate and the sheep do not want to play as one person told me once. 

“From March we will be in ground nesting bird season and again it’s law dogs be on a lead.  I thing it comes under the disturbance of wildlife act but very few people know this.”