Tuesday 17 August 2010

Common Lizard - A Shearing Accident

Over the years I have come across many obstacles in the wool whilst shearing. There may be wire tangled up in the wool for instance, not good for the machine I can tell you! Sometimes there are bumps on sheep where they shouldn't be, a boil or carbuncle can find itself sliced off as the clippers follow the body of the sheep. Ticks are often found on the sheep's body and great pleasure is taken in dissecting their little fat grotesque bodies. Maggots are on occasion uncovered whilst removing the wool, seeing daylight for the first time their little fat white bodies wriggle and squirm as another blow across the affected area with the hand piece sees them mashed up like mince meat. All the above are relatively common, not unheard off and little thought of.

The other day I came across something totally alien to myself. Not only alien to myself but also to all those it has been mentioned to to date. A mystery. Not only a mystery but one which for a fleeting second gave me a bit of a shock as I tried to work out in my little head what on earth was going on.

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I was busy doing the long blows along the sheep's back whilst at the same time she was slowly finding herself in the lain down position. As the wool fell away from her body I noticed the above lying on the shorn fleece, my mind didn't really have time to register what I may have seen before the next long blow had been taken along the length of her back.

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This second blow had me standing back slightly, wondering "what the hell"? Not only did I stand back slightly the machine also found itself turned of as I drew every one's attention to this phenomena which I was experiencing. My half shorn sheep found herself the centre of attention.

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The final piece of this grotesque story was found on her clipped body, a head belonging the body parts and it slowly dawned on me that whatever I was dealing with it was not a baby adder (that had entered my mind originally).

After much oohing and aahing, poking and prodding of body parts we were able to ascertain that some sort of lizard had been lying in the wool. Not only had it been lying in the wool but due to the fact I hadn't seen hide nor hair of it until it's dismembered body rose to the surface it must have in actual fact been snuggled up right against the sheep's skin. I have clipped thousands of sheep over many years and never experienced anything like this before.

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The lizard appeared to be turquoise. Very pretty and also very dead. Laid out on the palm of my hand it would measure 5 - 6 inches in length. The fact which amazed me the most was that these sheep had been gathered that morning off the hill, a two hour gather, followed by them being rattled through the sheep pens to have their lambs run off before being taken across the main road and housed in the clipping shed, the ewe had been in the shed for a good hour before it was her turn to be shorn and this creature had somehow managed to remain hidden until it was chopped up by my comb and cutter - fascinating.

Not quite so fascinating when I find it is probably a Common Lizard which are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. IT IS AN OFFENCE TO KILL, HARM OR INJURE THEM.

"In my defence m'Lord I broke the law unintentionally, I did not knowingly set off with the intention of chopping a lizard up into four pieces."

Actually I mebbes only chopped it into three pieces coz seemingly they are able to shed their tails to confuse predators. It definitely confused me whether it shed it's tail or it didn't!

Is there anyone out there with a knowledge of lizards which like to live on sheep? My take is that it had been a cool night the night previous and the little critter crept into the wool to keep warm but I would be interested to hear of any other logical explanation.