Pubdate: Sat, 14 Nov 2015
Source: News, The (New Glasgow, CN NS)
Copyright: 2015 Transcontinental Inc.
Author: Adam MacInnis
Page: 3


Farmer, concerned about flock's health, says policy needed

Cyril O'Connor walks up to the fence on his Piedmont Valley Road
property and gives a holler. Within seconds about 30 sheep are running
to meet him.

A sheep knows the shepherd's voice, O'Connor says. And he knows his

O'Connor does a lot to protect the sheep he's built this connection
with. In addition to secure fences, he has two dogs that protect the
sheep from predators such as coyotes.

But an incident that happened this summer has him worried about the
health of his flock.

On Aug. 31 a helicopter flew over his property in search of marijuana.
They found some in the woods near the pasture his sheep were in.

O'Connor and about half a dozen other people were in the house at the
time and couldn't miss when the helicopter went over.

"They flew low enough that over the top of the helicopter I could see
the trees," he said. "They were lower than the trees were. They were
only 10 or 15 feet above the sheep."

The sheep, which are by nature timid animals, immediately panicked and
started running in the pasture which is about 1,500 feet wide.

"I don't imagine they came all this way to chase the sheep, but they
chased them all the way over as far as the sheep could go and then
they chased them all the way back," O'Connor said. The dog, as it is
trained to do when it senses something dangerous, then led the sheep
into the night pasture.

About a week later one lamb died and within a month three others died.
O'Connor can't help but wonder if the incidents are connected.

"Whether they got hurt in the running or they died from something
else, I don't know," O'Connor said. "But I do know it didn't do them
any good."

Asked about the incident, RCMP media relations officer Mark Skinner
was able to confirm that there was an operation underway that day to
look for marijuana including the RCMP and the Department of National
Defence, which provided a helicopter.

He said they did search in the area of O'Connor's property, but once
the sheep were spotted the helicopter left the area.

"Obviously we don't want to scare or frighten any animals," Skinner

No charges were laid against O'Connor over the marijuana found on his
property. He said someone else must have planted it there without his
knowledge. Still he has no problem with the fact that the RCMP were
looking for marijuana in the area. He just believes that there should
be a policy in place that prevents livestock being chased in
situations like this.

Skinner said that pilots already do their best to avoid frightening

Because of the high-strung nature of sheep, O'Connor worries his
problems might not be over yet. He's heard that sheep that have been
frightened badly may have complications getting pregnant or miscarry
due to the stress. He puts about $6,000 worth of expenses into the
sheep, so if the number of lambs born in the spring is fewer than
normal it could have a major financial impact.

O'Connor said he expressed his frustration when the RCMP arrived at
the scene and later called to make a complaint. He said he did receive
an apology from an officer who was very nice.

"He said it shouldn't have happened and he'd see to it that it never
happened again."

But O'Connor worries it could.

Skinner confirmed a local RCMP member did talk with O'Connor and the
officer thought the issue was resolved.

 From what O'Connor has heard, the technology used to do detect
marijuana doesn't require the plane or helicopter to be low. Skinner
said it really depends on the situation how low a helicopter would
fly. In many cases it can be quite low, he said.

In the future O'Connor said if an area involves a place with
livestock, they should either fly high enough to not scare the animals
or inform the property owner so they can put their animals somewhere

"One of them could have come and told me and I would have put the
sheep in the barn."
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