Valella, a three-year-old Oberhasli goat, was found Wednesday morning after her owners spent two days fearing the rare animal had been stolen.
“I feel quite foolish, but also really grateful for the immense amount of support I received,” Valerie Macdonald said. Macdonald said after finding the goat trapped under a hay manger on the property.
Macdonald is a hobby farmer, breeding goats to create Canadian purebred Oberhasli, a rare breed related to the European Ibex. There are only about 40 of the goats in Canada, 13 of which are on the Macdonald family farm, including Valella and her 11-month-old kid Xing Xing.
It was a happy ending but did serve to bring to light the problem of livestock theft, which is a growing concern for farmers in Saanich and throughout the province.
“Over the years, there have been instances of sheep going missing, stuff like that, in the more rural parts of the municipality, so it’s not uncommon,” said Saanich police Sgt. Dean Jantzen.
In recent months, law enforcement agencies in the Fraser Valley – Langley, Aldergrove, Chilliwack and Abbotsford – have dealt with a rash of these types of thefts, where mass numbers of pigeons, chickens, sheep and goats disappear overnight.
“This clearly wasn’t someone stealing a car stereo one day, and pigeons the next. It was people that had some familiarity with some networks to sell livestock and fowl,” said Abbotsford police public information officer Const. Ian MacDonald. “Some of these animals would be auctioned off, and, in a couple of instances, were either being sold by word of mouth or actually through Craig’s List.”
He said the pigeons – more than 5,000 of which were stolen – were likely sold for $5 to $10 each to restaurants or other breeders. The goats could get upwards of $400 each at auction.
Macdonald, the Saanich farmer, was aware of the incidents in the Lower Mainland when she discovered Valella missing Monday morning. With no evidence pointing to an escape or cougar attack, her thoughts went immediately went to theft. Before finding the animal, she shared her fears with the News: “I don’t know if she was targeted because of her breed, or just some silly people thought they might come in here and take a goat for a lark, or maybe she was stolen for meat,” she said Tuesday.
Macdonald says she spotted Valella’s ears sticking out from under the hay manger Wednesday morning and pushed the large wooden structure away so the goat could escape.
“She’s stiff, but she was kind of cozied up under there. It’s a dry soft bed,” Macdonald said. “I guess it’s the equivalent of finding your child hiding under the bed after launching a huge neighbourhood search.”
Jantzen acknowledged the outcome of this incident was positive, but added these incidents do take place and cause people real emotional distress.
“When someone steals an animal from a family, it can be very emotional,” he said. “Given that most of our farms are hobby farms these animals are more like family members.”