Woodland Creek Soay Rams

Woodland Creek Soay Rams
Soay Sheep Ram Assortment

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Where oh where has my little lamb gone?

Here at Woodland Creek Farm we have had about 60 Soay lambs born since we started in 2005. But I have never had anything like this happen.
Yesterday we were pleased to see our first 2010 lamb born to our "light-wild" group. Since this lamb also has white spotting, he is what I call "double homozygous recessive" for two of the three main coat color genes in Soay sheep - light at the brown locus and white spotting. Here is a photo of the little guy.
Woodland Creek Santa Fe (Saratoga X Laramie)
This morning when I checked the ewes just before daybreak, I heard the unmistakable sound of a freshly-lambed ewe bleating mournfully as if it had lost it's new lamb. When I finally found her, it was our good old matriarch of the "black and white" line, Blue Mountain Thumper '00. Yes, after 10 years and many lambs, she was searching frantically for her newest lamb. She had afterbirth hanging out, so I assumed the new lamb(s) were somewhere around and began the search.
First, I could not identify the location where she had likely given birth - usually signified by a "nest" pawed out, and fresh amniotic fluids, etc. None was found in the area she was searching. I began searching all around the hay sheds, in the (now dry) creek bed, and eventually walked every inch of the entire pasture. There was simply no lamb(s) to be found, nor any clear evidence of where she had given birth.
After waiting a bit for more daylight, both Michelle and I went back out and searched all over the pastures --looking in every nook and cranny. There was simply no lamb to be found. Yet Thumper continued to plaintively call for her missing lamb.
I began to worry that a lamb was stuck -- as once before she had a second twin with forelegs turned back -- and I had to intervene to straighten them so she could expel the (by then dead) second lamb.
So after watching her closely for several hours, it was pretty clear she was no longer having contractions nor straining, yet seemed clearly distressed. So I played vet and caught her and did a manual exam and found no lamb present. But her clearly reduced girth suggested that she had clearly expelled significant weight.
So where did the lamb go?
It remains a mystery. I walked the fence line and all the electric on top and ground wire at the bottom was intact. I am (pretty) sure no coyote came inside to snatch the lamb. We have not seen bald eagles around for months, and besides it was before sunrise and pretty dark.
What could have happened? I am stumped. Poor old Thumper.


Michelle said...

How sad for both of you AND the ewe, and what a mystery! That would surely eat on me. Could it have been a great horned owl?

Gevan said...

I wondered about that. The ewe was under a shed, and I noted on the roof a large bunch of large white bird droppings all in one spot - clearly a roost directly above. But there is only one big branch, and nothing the the daylight hours. I just went out and checked now, and still nothing there (but a raccoon out in the pasture...)