Dramatic lake rescue in Eryri reignites debate about dog owners

Tracey tried to dry the lamb using clumps of grass
-Credit: (Image: Tony Elton)

Two hikers sprang into action to rescue a lamb that had been chased by dogs into a lake on Yr Wyddfa [Snowdon]. Tracey Dodd, 54, and Tony Elton, 57, from Bourne, Lincolnshire, were descending the mountain when they noticed a commotion among a group of onlookers.

The pair scrambled down and plunged into the water after being alerted to the plight of the lamb. After swimming out into Llyn Glaslyn, the lamb was brought back to land before it was successfully revived during 90 minutes of treatment, reports North Wales Live.

After details of the incident was shared on social media, the two rescuers were showered with praise – and two dog owners with condemnation for letting their spaniels run off lead. Tracey, a support worker, said: "We asked what was going on and they said three dogs had chased a lamb and it had gone into the tarn.

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"We were quite a way up and could only see a small white dot on the water, looking as if it might be a swan. Seagulls were already circling above it, ready to pounce.

"It looked as though the lamb had run to a dead end and was left with no option but to jump into the tarn to escape the dogs. As the group was going up, and we were going down, we said we'd do what we could to help."

The couple, who were staying with Tony's mother in Groeslon, near Caernarfon, had just completed the Crib Goch route and were making their way down the Miners' Path when they heard the disturbance. They quickly realised the lamb had been cornered and had no choice but to jump into the lake to escape the dogs.

Tracey and Tony, an estate ranger, had to scramble for 30 minutes to reach the lakeside. Tracey recalled: "The dogs' owners, a couple, were there and while they were very apologetic, they were making no attempt to rescue the lamb."

Tony tried to wade in but quickly retreated as the water was too deep and his backpack was weighing him down. In response, Tracey removed her boots and socks, and discarded her backpack and bumbag. The lamb was now about 15ft from the bank, floating on its side in the water.

"I'm quite a strong swimmer, so I went in," she said. "The water was freezing but I managed to reach the lamb, which was gasping and very close to drowning.

"I swam back with one arm, using the other to pull the lamb along. Tony dragged him onto the shore. He was fighting for air but his little legs were kicking, so I thought he might still make it."

For the next hour and a half, they attempted to revive the lamb, using clumps of grass to dry his coat and cuddling him for warmth. Luckily, Tracey had a change of clothes in her backpack.

The dog owners remained at the scene. "One came over and said she was so sorry, she didn't realise there were sheep this far up the mountain," Tracey shared.

"They said what so many other dogs owners say that their dogs had never done this before. After half-an-hour of drying the lamb, he let out a belch, which I took as a good sign.

"But he was too weak to stand. While we tried to warm him, we could hear cries from a sheep some 40ft above us: as it was the only one around, and was clearly watching us, we thought it must be the lamb's mother.

"So after an hour-and-a-half, Tony carried the lamb to a spot in the sun away from people. He left it there in the hope its mother would find it."

Meanwhile, spectators had alerted Llanberis Mountain Rescue, who passed the incident on to an Eryri warden. Shortly after, a farmer arrived to check on his lamb.

"I don't know what happened next but I hope the lamb is OK," said Tracey. "If not, at least we tried our best. Since posting images online, we've had really nice feedback and hopefully it will reinforce the message that people need to keep dogs on leads when climbing Snowdon."

Y Wyddfa is a farmed mountain and sheep worrying is a constant concern for local graziers. Online, many people criticised "irresponsible" dog owners who let their pets run loose on the mountain.

Some urged walkers to report any dog attacks on livestock they witness in the national park to the police.

One man expressed his frustration, saying: "It happened on the Watkin Path just last week. The chasing of lambs is an almost daily occurrence on Yr Wyddfa through the busy period. Anyone who doesn't keep their dog on a lead in these areas of the national park doesn't give a s**t". Another added their voice to the concern: "Cwm Idwal is the same, they're all free to roam, grrr!"

The rules in Eryri (Snowdonia) are clear: dogs must be kept on a short lead from March 1 to July 31 on open access land, as stated by the National Park Authority. This is a crucial time for livestock and ground-nesting birds that are breeding.

While on public footpaths, dogs should be under "close control", which may not require a lead unless they are near livestock or wildlife. However, the general advice to dog owners is to keep their pets leashed at all times out of respect for others: unexpected sheep encounters and off-leash dogs can pose risks to other walkers, particularly on steep terrain.

For Tracey, leaving her two greyhounds at home while she tackled Yr Wyddfa was part of her personal victory over Crib Coch, the mountain's notorious knife-edge ridge. She shared: "I have a fear of drops. A year ago I couldn't even get up into my loft."

Her determination to conquer her fears paid off: "I was so determined to overcome my fear. And now that I've done Crib Coch, I've no particular desire to do it again!"