The fleece of “Britain’s loneliest sheep” will be sold and the money sent to charity following her rescue nearly two years after being stranded on a remote shore in Scotland.
The three-year-old ewe called Fiona has a new look after her fleece was trimmed and sent to an expert knitter.
Wooldale Wool is crafting collectables for sale or prizes to support the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) and RSABI, the Scottish branch of a mental health charity for farmers, according to reports.
Hand shears were used to ensure that the sheep retained some of its coat for the approaching winter. Reports said that during this time, Fiona will have the opportunity to acclimate herself to the other sheep and the farm staff at Dalscone Farm Fun in Dumfries.
Mr Wilson organised the mission in his personal time alongside four others. They hauled Fiona up a steep slope using heavy equipment. He was joined in the rescue by fellow farmers Graeme Parker, Als Couzens, Ally Williamson and James Parker.
Two of them stayed at the top to operate a winch while three others were lowered 250m (820ft) down the cliff to reach Fiona who was found in a cave.
In a video posted to Facebook, Mr Wilson said: “She’s in incredible condition. She is about a condition score of about 4.5, she is overfat – it was some job lifting her up that slope.”
In an interview with BBC News, he acknowledged how risky the mission was: “The only difference between us being heroes and idiots is a slip of the foot.”
Jillian Turner was canoeing near the cliff when she first spotted Fiona in 2021.
She told The Northern Times: “About half a mile before turning into the Cromarty Firth we spotted a sheep on a shingle beach at the bottom of some steep, rocky coastline.”
She added: “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.”
At that moment, Ms Turner didn’t give it much thought, assuming that the sheep would find its way up the rocky slope on its own. However, during a recent repeat journey by the canoe club, she was shocked to discover that the animal was still in the same location.
Ms Turner said: “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.”
“Her fleece on the first occasion was a normal year’s growth, however on the recent trip the fleece was huge and touching the ground at the back,” she said in a recent interview.
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.
“It is heart-rending. We honestly thought she might make her way back up that first year.”
A petition calling for a rescue mission had reached more than 52,000 signatures and Mr Wilson reported part of his determination had come from seeing misinformation online.
He said unfair comments towards the farmer from whose flock Fiona had become stranded had moved him to organise the mission. “People were starting to show up on his land and it wasn’t fair,” he said.
Fiona’s story of rescue stirred up a social media frenzy and a dispute between animal rights groups. Police were summoned to the Scottish Dalscone Farm Fun where Fiona was due to be taken after animal rights activists were accused of harassing the staff there.
A volunteer group called Animal Rising organised a demonstration outside Dalscone Farm Fun, protesting Fiona’s arrival. The activists were reportedly working to rescue the sheep but alleged that rival rescuers had secretly used a winch to hoist her up the cliff.
The group posted on X: “Over the last five days, we formed a strong bond and connection with this gentle, neglected soul. The local landowner agreed the rescue could go ahead Sunday and that Sheepie [Fiona] could live out the rest of her life safely, and peacefully, at a sanctuary.”
They added that the “same landowner covertly removed the poor ewe who is currently on her way to Dalscone Farm Fun petting zoo instead”.
“Whilst we are pleased she is no longer stranded at the base of a cliff, she has just gone from isolation to exploitation.”
It was reported that Fiona was briefly kept in a secret location until farmers felt it was safe to move her after a “scary” and “intimidating” visit from the Animal Rising activists.
In a video posted on social media, the farm manager, Ben Best, said: “For the time being, Fiona’s whereabouts is going to be kept secret. There’s only a few of us that know where she is. It’s such a shame because she needs to come in, she needs to settle down, she needs to be safe and these people who are claiming to be in her best interests are really, really not. She’s coming to a five-star home and they’re not allowing that to happen.”
Animal Rising apologised to the Dalscone Farm staff and said that they were concerned for Fiona and believed a “petting zoo” visited by the public would not be the best home for her.