Gruff justice: Village spat over straying goats turns poisonous

20th March 2007

Best pass on the pepper: These stray goats have been targeted by irate villagers in Lynton, Devon. There have been wild goats living near Lynton for centuries and they were even mentioned in the Domesday Book. Devon is also famous for its thousands of wild ponies.

A battle between villagers and a herd of wild goats took a sinister turn - after twelve peppers stuffed with poison were discovered on a hillside.

The deadly vegetables were crammed full of caustic soda crystals and baited blue grain - a substance similar to rat poison - and scattered on the ground in Lynton, Devon.

Around 100 wild goats have caused chaos by straying into the village and the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) believe the peppers have been left by a fed-up resident in an attempt to kill them.

The green peppers were discovered by a member of the public next to a shelter the animals use to take refuge from the wind and rain.

David Steele, RSPCA chief inspector, said: "The peppers have been stuffed with soda crystals and poison and were found in a pile in an area frequented by ponies and feral goats.

"We suspect that whoever left the peppers was probably intending to kill either the goats or ponies, perhaps thinking the animals would mistake them for apples.

"But instead the peppers and their contents could easily have been consumed by birds and other wildlife. It is vital that we find who is responsible."

A herd of goats has roamed a hillside overlooking Lynton and nearby Lynmouth for centuries but all attempts to keep them out of the twin communities have failed.

The animals inhabit a 300 acres Site of Special Scientific Interest known as the Valley of Rocks but often stray into the villages and dig up lawns, eat flowers, knock down fences and rip up the cricket pitch.

Several authorised culls have taken place and local people recently paid 40,000 for a cattle grid to try and block their path - which they later learned to tiptoe across.

Complaints by residents have led to several culls and in 2004 a marksman shot around 13 under the orders of the town council, which owns the valley.

Elaine Drew, Chairman of Friends of Lynton Goats, called the poisoning a "despicable and disturbing act." She said: "There is a lot of high feeling in the village over the goats - they do make a bit of a nuisance over themselves. But to do something like this is dIsgusting, incredibly dangerous and very worrying.

"Something terrible could easily have happened - apart from goats and ponies a dog or even a child could have picked them up and been poisoned.

"Last week somebody put apples in the same spot - now we are considering if this was to get the animals used to the thought of food being there.

"We can only assume they used peppers in this case because they can be easily hollowed out so there is more room inside.

"When the peppers were found somebody touched them and the substance started to burn their skin, which shows how dangerous they were."

The animals were removed from the valley in the mid-19th century and replaced by white goats from the Royal Herd at Sandringham, Norfolk.

That herd was wiped out during the harsh winters of the early 1960s, but in 1976 three feral goats from the Cheviot Hills in Northumberland were introduced into the valley.

The Domesday Book states that there were 75 goats at the "Manor of Lyntonia" in 1086.

Last edited by Blackleaf; Mar 21st, 2007 at 04:39 AM..