Six sheep have been killed in a series of sickening attacks by dogs on Chailey Commons.
The slaughter has led to an urgent appeal to owners to act responsibly – and to be vigilant for the minority who do not.
The sheep are a rarity in Sussex, the hardy Hebridean breed being introduced in October as part of a project to protect the nationally rare heathland by removing invasive plants through grazing.
But since then a significant percentage of their number have been killed on Pound Common and Romany Ridge Common by out-of-control dogs.
The latest victim died on Monday night. The sheep have this week been removed from the Commons as part of the grazing regime and will not return until the spring.
Grazier Kevin Uridge, of Townings Farm, Plumpton Road, North Chailey, said: “It’s sad and depressing that all these sheep have died and it’s directly due to irresponsible owners. If they feel their dog could possibly be a threat they should have it on a lead.
“There are plenty of signs in all the car parks warning visitors to be aware sheep are present, and on the Commons themselves.”
He added: “We thought the roads would be the threat to the livestock, but there has only been one fatality as a result of a car accident.”
The carnage has also left Mr Uridge out of pocket – each sheep is worth around £80.
A meeting has been called for the New Year involving the graziers, Lead Ranger Jo Heading, the various landowners and East Sussex County Council to try to resolve the problem.
The rule is that pets must be kept under close control in the presence of livestock, walking to heel or on a lead.
Mr Uridge added that the introduction of the Hebridean breed had attracted much positive comment, and the novelty of the tough little animals had been an attraction at the beauty spots.
A spokesman for East Sussex County Council said: “Of course people like to take their dogs out and explore our beautiful countryside but we would urge them to be mindful of letting their dog stray into areas where livestock are grazing.
“Not only can uncontrolled dogs cause serious injury, distress or even death to the animals, they can also lead to a loss of income for the farmer and possible prosecution for the dog walker.
“Please keep your dog under control and follow the signs on site at all times.”
In addition to the sheep, a small group of Sussex cattle was introduced in the autumn to graze Memorial, Pound and Romany Ridge Commons.
They were later joined by 10 Exmoor ponies, owned by the Sussex Pony Grazing Trust, to feed on Red House Common and help to control scrub and gorse.