Champion sheep shearer recruited to trim this renegade Merino found wandering the hills of Australia

A champion sheep shearer has answered the call after Australian rescuers desperately asked for help in shaving a renegade that had spent years hiding in the hills outside Canberra.

“We can’t see anything at the moment because of the amount of wool on him,” Tammy Ven Dange, an official with ’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to , told the Sydney-based Daily Telegraph.

We need help from a sheerer to save this big Merino

The sheep, whose overgrown coat has made it four to five times the size of a regular sheep, was discovered wandering on its own in Mulligan Flats, a wooded area just outside Australia’s capital of Canberra.

As reported by Australian media, the overgrown sheep was spotted by a “bushwalker,” a local term for hiker. A team of five staff were needed to track the animal and carry it to safety.

RSPCA/AFP/Getty ImagesRSPCA/AFP/Getty ImagesThe RSPCA put out an urgent appeal for shearers after finding a sheep with wool so overgrown its life was in danger.

Just as North American dairy cows experience pain and possible udder-rupture if they are not milked, Merino sheep are bred to produce wool as fast as possible and can face lethal consequences if they are not regularly sheared.

The matted coat of the Mulligan Flats sheep could be hiding massive infections and even be preventing the animal from properly defecating. In its years in the wild, the sheep also evaded the very real possibility that it could have fallen onto its back and been unable to get up.

RSPCA veterinarians reported that they are unable to properly assess the sheep’s condition because there is too much wool in the way.

“We need help from a shearer to save this big Merino or if you can at least lend us the tools,” wrote Ven Dange in a Wednesday afternoon post to Twitter.

Without hours, the plea was answered by Ian Elkins, four-time winner of Australia’s Shearer of the Year.

A shearer since he was 16, Elkins has long ranked among the pinnacle of the country’s 3,200 sheep shearers.

Having once sheared 280 sheep in a single day, Elkins also rose to prominence because of his technique: Removing the wool in large, well-cut patches while inflicting minimal nicks and cuts to the animal.

Speaking to AFP on Wednesday, Elkins said the Mulligan Flats sheep “could be one of my biggest challenges yet.”

“They sent through a photo and I’ve never seen such wool on a sheep before,” he said.

Rescuers remain unsure whether the sheep will survive the procedure.

After so many years of solitude, the animal is stressed out by human contact and may go into shock during the one to two hours required to remove the wool.

RelatedEdmonton man was secretly hoarding a flock of sheep that went unnoticed by city inspectors for 20 years

On Thursday, veterinarians will provide sedatives to keep the sheep as calm as possible as Elkins clips his way through the matted growth.

While the massive coat of the Mulligan Flats sheep is unusual, the phenomenon of escaped sheep is not unprecedented, particularly in the sheep-farming vastness of New Zealand and Australia.

This time last year, in fact, farmers in Tasmania captured “Shaun,” a six-year-old Merino ram that they believed had never been shorn. At the time, farmer Netty Hazell said that it was easy to catch the animal since it was unable to see very well due to its eyes being shrouded by wool.

RSPCA/AFP/Getty ImagesRSPCA/AFP/Getty ImagesThis giant woolly sheep was found on the outskirts of Canberra.

But the ’s most famous escaped sheep was arguably Shrek, a New Zealand Merino that escaped and evaded capture for six years by hiding in caves.

After being caught in 2004, Shrek yielded 27 kg of wool — enough to provide at least three tailored suits each to all of the sons and grandsons of Queen Elizabeth II.

In the case of the Mulligan Flats sheep, Ven Dange told Australian radio that the wool is too “disgusting” for resale.

“I don’t think anyone is going to want it,” she said.

Steven Jaquiery / AFP / Getty ImagesSteven Jaquiery / AFP / Getty ImagesShrek, the hermit Merino sheep who evaded shearing for six years by hiding in a cave, is flanked by TV presenter Paul Holmes, left, and owner John Perriam, right, in Cromwell on April 28, 2004, before being shorn on live television.

National Post

• Email: [email protected] | Twitter: tristinhopper

About Tristin Hopper