A Chichester farmer made a grim discovery when 116 sheep were found dead – feared to have been scared to death by dogs.
Gordon Wyeth, a farmer on the West Dean Estate, in Chichester, found the sheep squashed against a fence and a gate on Monday morning, suggesting they had been herded there deliberately and either died from shock or crushed in the flock.
Many of the sheep – worth around £17,000 in total – were pregnant.
Sergeant Tom Carter from Sussex Police said: ‘I have never seen or heard of sheep-worrying on this scale before and this was a terrible sight.
‘While there are no signs of any of the animals being savaged, we are all but 100 per cent certain that their deaths were brought about by dogs.
‘The flock was last checked around lunchtime on Sunday, so the incident could have occurred at any time over the next 24 hours. However, if as we suspect it was a dog attack, it may well have happened in daylight and we want to hear from anyone with information about it.
‘This is not just about Mr Wyeth’s livelihood – and it will cost him at least another £2,000 to dispose of the carcasses – but also his emotional attachment to the animals that he has raised and nurtured.’
It happened in a field just north of the A286, near the old railway bridge at the eastern end of the village.
Sgt Carter added: ‘We have seen a rise in sheep-worrying incidents and as spring approaches more dog owners will be heading for the countryside to exercise their pets. We urge people to keep their dogs on a lead while they are walking in rural areas and around livestock. So often in these incidents the owners are horrified by what their dogs have done, but they have to accept that even the most docile of pets can quickly turn into a killer given the opportunity.
‘A farmer can legally shoot a dog that is chasing livestock and seek compensation from the person responsible for the animal, so please don’t take the risk.’
James Osman, the National Farmers’ Union adviser for Sussex, said: ‘This is the worst incident of its kind in living memory and talking to colleagues around the country, the number of deaths is double what we have come across in the past.
‘We are in full support of the police’s efforts to discover whose dog or dogs were responsible and urge anyone with information to get in touch with them.’
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 101 quoting serial 862 of 07/03.