By Emma Cotton/VTDigger
The administrators of a Facebook group called “Killington Locals” chose a new featured photo for their page on Thursday: two sheep peeking over the backseat of a Volvo.
The picture marked the end of a journey for the sheep in question, who escaped from their new home at Mission Farm on Sunday, June 6, and for a bevy of locals who helped rescue them.
Over five days, the sheep crossed Route 4, slept atop Killington Ski Resort and descended to Pico Resort, where a group of 15 coaxed the animals into capturing range with the help of oats and maple syrup.
“We had actually just finished up a church service, and we were doing a yoga walk around these trails down by the river. That’s when it happened,” said Morgan Baughman, whose mother is a vicar at the Church of our Saviour located at Mission Farm, an idyllic riverside property near Route 4.
A loose dog on a walk with its owner spooked one of the sheep, which had joined the farm as permanent residents only a week earlier. One tangled itself in the fence, creating an opening. The other two animals ran through it and into the nearby woods.
“A bunch of people who were doing the yoga walk helped us look for the sheep in the woods,” Baughman said. “We saw them, but we couldn’t rally them, so we just kept on, pushing them further and further into the woods. Eventually, we lost track of where they were.”
Later that night, someone saw the escapees across the road, by Killington Resort’s Skyeship Gondola.
“They’re very good at dodging people,” Baughman said. “So even when we did have half a dozen people surrounding them, they always managed to slip between us.”
The “Killington Locals” page saw frequent updates throughout the week as residents, spotting the animals in various parts of town, alerted Baughman and a group of interns who are spending the summer tending to chickens, bees and sheep at the farm and church.
On Monday, one person posting on the Facebook page asked, “Anyone lose three sheep?” with a photo of the animals walking down Route 4.
“Any word on the sheep?” read a graphic posted Tuesday. One commenter called it the “most VT post ever.”
Intern Caity Stuart responded that the group “spent all morning trying to collect them but they continually outwitted us.” She added, “We’ve called in more help to join us tomorrow. To be continued!”
By Wednesday, June 9, a patroller at Killington called the Mission Farm crew and said the sheep were sleeping at the top of the mountain. The team rushed over. Jimmy Pickett, an intern, said the animals seemed happy when the group approached them but darted away when they got close.
“Somebody on a four wheeler followed them down to Ramshead,” Pickett said. “At that point, they were off trail.”
Between Wednesday and Thursday, the sheep made their way to the parking lot of Pico Mountain Resort.
Tom Alcorn, senior program coordinator for Vermont Adaptive, the offices of which are located at Pico, first saw the sheep in the parking lot. He pulled in after an errand and found them licking salt off the ground.
“I went into the office and alerted everybody, and a call went out amongst the community,” he said. Five staff members from Vermont Adaptive assisted in the rescue, according to Alcorn. “We rallied,” he said.
Having seen the Facebook posts, Alcorn knew to call Mission Farm.
Baughman was in the middle of a summer environmental economics class when he got the call. “I jumped up,” he said. “I threw on my running shoes and some shorts and a T-shirt, popped in my Volvo, and sped up there.”
Arriving on scene, he spotted a group of eight people guiding the sheep away from Route 4. One person had Tupperware containers filled with oats and maple syrup, a snack Baughman said the sheep enjoyed but only until the capturers approached.
“I would go for oats and syrup, too, if I had wandered away from my home for [five] days,” Alcorn said.
The crowd grew until around 15 people were there, attempting to capture the running animals. They nabbed one and placed it in the car, but it escaped. Baughman ran laps around the building, into the woods, toward a lift and back again, chasing the last sheep until it tired.
“There were people from the ages of 12 years old to probably in their late 80s who were part of this crazy sheep chase,” Baughman said. “Employees, residents, visitors.”
Once the animals were captured, Baughman drove his car into the pasture to deliver them. The group celebrated with cake.
Stuart took to Facebook, thanking “everyone who cheered us on, alerted us of their whereabouts, gave us rides up the mountain, helped with their capture, and delivered some of the best sheep jokes around.”
With Mission Farm now high on the minds of some Killington residents, Baughman and Pickett hope to see more of them visit the farm, which has trails and public events. They clarified one new rule: Dogs must be leashed.
Locals posted to Facebook with their own celebrations of the animals’ return. “They’re baaaa-ck!” wrote one of the page’s administrators above the photo of the sheep in the Volvo.
Gary Scannevin, who appears to have aided in the capture effort, posted his own report:
“BREAKING,” he wrote. “Fugitive sheep apprehended at Pico after [five] days on the lamb. Bystanders described the scene as, ‘shear madness.’ Ewe herd it here first. All’s wool that ends wool.”