Fiona, a now-famous and once-lonely British sheep, is at the center of a social media frenzy as well as a local dispute.
Farmers rescued her on Saturday by hoisting her up a hill after she spent at least two years by herself at the bottom of a Scottish cliff, snacking on grass and hiding from the elements in a cave.
Fiona — so named because a sheep named Shrek had been in a similar position in New Zealand almost 20 years ago — has been moved to Dalscone Farm in Dumfries, about 25 miles north of the border with England, where she is set to live out the rest of her days.
While it’s not known how Fiona ended up at the bottom of a cliff, it is likely that she got separated from her mother before falling or wandering down the hill and ended up at the bottom without a path back up.
“It’s easy to go down,” said Cammy Wilson, a Scottish sheep farmer who was one of Fiona’s rescuers. “It’s not as easy to go back up.”
Fiona ended up spending at least two years down there in relatively safe conditions because she had shelter, food and water. She primarily lacked social interactions with fellow sheep or humans.
A kayaker first spotted Fiona in 2021.
Mr. Wilson said he decided to get five farmers together to rescue the lonely sheep after Fiona started to gain notoriety on social media. He added that there had been some negative comments blaming farmers for not yet rescuing her.
“Social media can do crazy things,” he said.
But Mr. Wilson and his fellow farmers were not the only ones trying to rescue Fiona.
Animal Rising, an animal rights group in the U.K., had been scoping out the terrain as well and its members had become acquainted with Fiona. Their plan for her home had been an animal sanctuary near Glasgow.
“The best place for her is to go somewhere where she is free from much human interference,” said Rose Patterson, a coordinator at Animal Rising.
At Dalscone Farm, she said, animals were used for human entertainment.
“I just want to know that it is guaranteed that she is not going to be exploited in any way,” Ms. Patterson added.
The farmers who rescued Fiona chose Dalscone Farm because it livestreams its animals. This way, people who were worried about Fiona could see how she was doing at any time, Mr. Wilson said.
Dalscone Farm will be closed for the winter season, so Fiona will have time to get used to animals and humans being around her and lose some weight. Under that big fleece, Fiona weighed about 203 pounds.
“She was incredibly fat,” Mr. Wilson said. “She ate so much grass.”
Ben Best, the head animal keeper and a farmer at Dalscone Farm, said that Fiona would not be used for entertainment and that she would live in a small pasture with four or five other sheep who would be handpicked based on their temperament, rather than among the 100 or so sheep at the farm.
“She’s not going to be an experience for visitors,” Mr. Best said. “That’s not what we want for her.”
Through the whole ordeal, Fiona has seemed unbothered.
Even when farmers sheared nearly 20 pounds of wool from her, she barely moved a muscle, Mr. Wilson said, adding that it was common for a sheep to struggle a bit during shearing.
“She did none of that,” he said. “It’s crazy.”