Life for Bradley, Juanita and thousands of other feral sheep living on Santa Cruz Island (off the coast of Southern California) was never a walk in the park. Descendants of domestic sheep brought to the island in the 1800’s, Bradley, Juanita and their friends were labeled a “non-native” species and were widely considered to be a nuisance. Most of the human residents of Santa Cruz Island wanted the feral sheep to “go away.”
The Nature Conservancy and a powerful local family named the Gherini’s were especially interested in ridding the island of the feral herds, hoping that the extermination of the sheep would become a profitable enterprise. Sole owner of 90 percent of Santa Cruz Island, the Nature Conservancy began funding aerial shootings of the sheep and shipped the animals to the California mainland, where they were slaughtered. The Gherini’s, who owned the other 10 percent of the island, also exploited the sheep for financial gain, charging hunters hefty fees to hunt them.When the Gherini’s sold their share of the island in 1997, they intended to kill all of the remaining Santa Cruz sheep and were able to convince the Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service to help.
When these agencies announced they were going to kill the unwanted sheep, the local humane agency and area citizens joined with Farm Sanctuary to stop the cruel hunt. Farm Sanctuary offered to take hundreds of the animals and launch a national rescue and adoption effort to place as many sheep as possible into safe, loving homes. After immense public pressure and media attention, the Gherini family agreed to release 200 of the sheep to Farm Sanctuary.
Today, Bradley, Juanita and their friends are living happily at our California Shelter, and spend their days roaming through the sanctuary pastures. Although most of his kin are still understandably timid, Bradley has evolved into a tough and fearless ram. Lovingly referred to as “Charlemagne” by many on our staff, Bradley has stepped up as leader of the Santa Cruz herd and willingly approaches Farm Sanctuary staff, volunteers and visitors. Because Juanita arrived at Farm Sanctuary when she was only one-year-old, she too has learned to be a bit more outgoing and affectionate than most of her rescued flock-mates. Still, although both Juanita and Bradley have conquered much of their wariness of humans, they prefer to hang out with members of their own species. And we don’t mind at all! We’re just grateful that they are safe now and have a happy, healthy home to call their own.