Dramatic lake rescue on Yr Wyddfa reignites debate about dog owners who 'don't give a s**t'

Tony hauled the lamb ashore after it had been retrieved from the lake by his partner
-Credit: (Image: Tracey Dodd)

Two walkers launched a dramatic rescue when dogs chased a lamb into a lake on Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon). As scores of horrified visitors watched on, they scrambled down to the tarn and plunged into freezing water in a desperate bid to save the ailing lamb.

After swimming out into Llyn Glaslyn, the lamb was hauled back to land where it was successfully revived during 90 minutes of frantic treatment. When images were 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 Dodd, 54, and her partner Tony Elton, 57, both from Bourne, Lincolnshire, climbed the mountain while staying with his mother in Groeslon, near Caernarfon. They’d tackled Crib Goch and were descending the Miners’ Path when they heard commotion from a group of onlookers.

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“We asked what was going on and they said three dogs had chased a lamb and it had gone into the tarn,” said Tracey, a support worker. “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.”

It took Tracey and Tony, an estate ranger, 30 minutes of hard scrambling to get to the lakeside. “The dogs’ owners, a couple, were there and while they were very apologetic, they were making no attempt to rescue the lamb,” said Tracey. “My partner tried to wade in but he came straight out as it was too deep and he was weighed down by his backpack.”

Instead, Tracey stripped off her boots and socks, and shrugged off her backpack and bumbag. By now the lamb was lolling in the water on its side some 15ft from the bank. “I’m quite a strong swimmer, so I went in,” she said. The North Wales Live Whatsapp community for top stories and breaking news is live now - here’s how to sign up

“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.”

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

For the next 90 minutes, they tried to revive the lamb, using clumps of grass to dry his coat and cuddling him for warmth. Fortunately, Tracey had a change of clothes in her backpack.

The dog owners stayed put too. “One came over and said she was so sorry, she didn’t realise there were sheep this far up the mountain,” said Tracey. “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.” Sign up for the North Wales Live newsletter sent twice daily to your inbox

In the meantime, onlookers had alerted Llanberis Mountain Rescue, which passed the incident to an Eryri warden. He arrived closely followed by a farmer who went 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.”

With the lamb showing signs of recovery, having been in the water for at least 30 minutes, Tony carried it to a quiet, sunny spot in the hope its mother would find it
With the lamb showing signs of recovery, having been in the water for at least 30 minutes, Tony carried it to a quiet, sunny spot in the hope its mother would find it -Credit:Tracey Dodd

Y Wyddfa is a farmed mountain and sheep worrying is a constant concern for local graziers. Online, scores of people lined up to condemn 'irresponsible' dog owners who let their pets run loose on the mountain. Some called on walkers to report to the police any dog attacks on livestock they see in the national park.

One man said: “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 person added: “Cwm Idwal is the same, they're all free to roam, grrr!”

On open access land in Eryri (Snowdonia), all dogs must be kept on a short lead between March 1 and July 31, according to the National Park Authority. This is when livestock and ground-nesting birds are breeding. On public footpaths, dogs need only be under “close control” – not necessarily on a lead unless passing livestock or wildlife.

In practice, dog owners are encouraged to keep their dogs on leads at all times as a common courtesy: sheep can appear suddenly and free-running dogs can be dangerous for other walkers, especially on steep slopes.

For Tracey, who left her two greyhounds behind when climbing Yr Wyddfa, the rescue was fuelled by her jubilation as conquering Crib Coch, the mountain’s infamous knife-edge ridge. “I have a fear of drops,” she said. “A year ago I couldn’t even get up into my loft.

“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!” Get all the latest Gwynedd news by signing up to our newsletter - sent every Tuesday

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