A RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) rescuer showed incredible strength by saving a sheep one-handed during a dramatic cliff rescue mission on the Great Orme.
On January 21, animal rescue officer Dean Wilkins had abseiled 30 metres down a cliff in North Wales to reach the ewe who was trapped on a narrow ledge, just inches wide.
The Herdwick sheep went to jump and would have plunged to her death, but quick-thinking Dean saved her by grabbing hold of her with one hand until help arrived from his colleague, RSPCA inspector Mike Pugh.
RSPCA chief inspectorate officer Dermot Murphy, said: “There is no doubt that Dean’s quick reactions and strength saved the life of this sheep.
“She would have plunged down the cliff if he hadn’t managed to grab hold of her and hang on until his colleague arrived.
“I’m incredibly proud of Dean and Mike, they are a great example of our rescue team who will go to great lengths to save animals.”
The sheep is thought to have become stuck after she was chased over the headland by a dog.
Similar incidents involving sheep near Buxton, Derbyshire, were also reported last month, and the RSPCA is appealing to pet owners to ensure their dogs are always on a lead when around livestock.
Dean said: “I’ve been doing these sorts of rescues with the team for about three years but this was the first time I had actually physically caught the animal.
“Given the narrow ledge the ewe was on, we approached extremely cautiously so as not to spook her, but seconds after I had got hold of her she jumped and I suddenly found myself clinging onto her woolly coat with one hand.
“Everything just happened really fast, although I do remember thinking that I couldn’t hold on for much longer and was super relieved when Mike got down to help.”
Mike added: “It was a difficult rescue as the ewe was perched precariously on a ledge that was only a few inches wide and a fall would have meant certain death.
“Once Dean had got hold of her and she became airborne, the pressure was then on me to get to them as quickly as possible.
“This resulted in me unceremoniously dangling upside down in mid air with the sheep on top of me. I recall saying to him with a big grin, Dean, you can let go now, you’re a hero!”
After managing to safely contain the ewe, Dean and Mike managed to abseil down to a wider ledge about five metres below, where they placed her in a bag.
The officers then had another six or seven metres to descend to the ground, where the relieved owner of the sheep was waiting.
After a check up by the farmer, the ewe – who had been monitored on the ledge for several days and provided with hay – was reunited, unharmed, with the rest of her flock.
The incident came on the same day the RSPCA inspectors and other colleagues had completed rope rescue training at Plas y Brenin, the National Outdoor Centre in nearby Betws-Y-Coed.
Instructors from the centre also assisted with the rescue, and the RSPCA has thanked them for the help and expertise they provided.
Last September, RSPCA inspectors teamed up with Conwy County Borough Council to come to the aid of 21 goats which were stranded on a rocky outcrop on the Great Orme.
The successful rescue involved creating a path of hay bales which the animals used to climb back to safety.