SICKNESS & DEATH IN THE VALLEY

Colin E. Ridsdale

Sadly the goats have a bacterial intestinal infection which gives them diarrhoea and the rear end is covered with dung. Secondarily they get worm infestation and gradually loose half or more of their body weight and eventually die. The infection can remain in the grass for some time, needing a period of frost or a long dry spell before it is killed. So the experts expect high losses of the younger animals. A plan is being made with the grazier and the Council for sick animals, if caught, to be humanely destroyed by a vet. We cannot move the animals to another area nor can we keep them from grazing on the grass. We hope that those older animals, that browse rather than graze, will survive. The wet weather of the last two years has played a role here, but we do not know how this infection arrived in the valley. At the moment the rutting season has started and the goats are scattered around the valley and down on the cliffs making it difficult to get an accurate count. In the spring there were about 80 mature animals plus the young kids. At present I estimate that there are about 70-80 animals in total and the number of mature Billies are critically low, several are also sick. Information presented here was gleaned from attending the Council's Estates and Amenities Committee as a member of the Public. It is worthy of note that, for the first time, so far as I am aware, the Town Clerk publicly announced that the Council was responsible for the goats and their welfare which has been confirmed by the chairman of this committee, Julian Gurney, who also chairs the management group. With his input and management knowledge from his professional employment at the National Trust we see a very positive improvement in the Council's management capacity of the Valley. Lastly thanks are due for the support of Diane Lewis from her organization in transporting the sick goat to the Ministry vet for an autopsy. Every one of us recognises her support and dedication to animal welfare.

Death in the Valley also comes from a rifle bullet as on two occasions this September shots have been heard in the early hours of the morning. This confirms what Raymond Werner has long suspected from his census results. Somebody is shooting the goats for trophies or meat -who we do not know.

However, two older Billies which escaped the last cull can still be seen in the valley and were photographed in the area near the roundabout. Let us hope that their offspring survive in 2009.

Tourists have also complained about the state of the shelter at Poet's Corner which was published in the Lyn Valley News, an ongoing problem for several years.

A few days after this picture was taken, the shelter was closed from public access and is pending cleaning to be organised by the Council. Hopefully renovation funds may soon be available to restore this picturesque shelter-also ongoing for several years but frequently diverted to other urgent issues.

News from VOREG is that the planning permission for a goat shelter has been forwarded to Exmoor National Park Authority and the park archaeologist has visited the site in connection with the application, and a few weeks later the planning permission was granted. Hopefully, this will provide alternative shelter for the goats and Poet's Corner can be reclaimed for human occupation.

We had one goat rescue - stranded on the same ledge as the previous rescue. This time it was a solitary young goat and few had noticed it. The animal had eaten all the vegetation on the ledge and all of he ivy within reach- not such a healthy diet. Learning from the last rescue we locally purchased a yellow football in a net, attached this to a rope and bounced it down near the goat. The animal was so shocked it took one leap to freedom landing safely in the bracken and went down to a sprouting gorse bush to satisfy its hunger on morsels of young shoots.

Let us hope for a cold, old fashioned winter, after this wet summer, which would help solve this sickness problem.

03-10-2008