Prickles the sheep returns home to Dunalley farm after fleeing 2013 bushfires

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The fleecy fugitive has been on the lam, or run, ever since.

Now an isolation expert after seven years in the bush, Prickles has been caught.

Farmer Alice Gray told Helen Shield on ABC Radio Hobart the merino was a sight to behold after missing seven rounds of shearing.

“She is absolutely round,” Ms Gray said.

“She’s a great big fluffy ball of wool.

“She looks very healthy and she’s very happy now in with some other little friends.”

Party turns into sheep chase
Ms Gray and her family were celebrating her son Barclay’s sixth birthday when they spotted Prickles.

The family has been self-isolating on the farm and for a change of scenery went to the back paddock for a barbecue.

“We saw this big, white, fluffy thing on the other side of the dam,” she said.

The party then turned into a sheep chase.

“My husband disappeared and gave me a call, puffing, saying he’d chased her and leapt on her and was holding her down and we all had to go and help,” Ms Gray said.

They wrangled Prickles into the back of a ute.

“It was quite difficult because as her name suggests she has a lot of prickles in her fleece,” Ms Gray said.

Adjusting back to farm life
Prickles has been in a good paddock, so to speak — a 200-acre bush block.

The family does not graze sheep there but they knew Prickles was out there somewhere.

“Prickles would have been a little lamb when she ran away because she still has her tail,” Ms Gray said.

“We’ve caught a few glimpses of her over the years, including when she snuck up on a night camera we put out looking for deer.”

Prickles is a barefaced merino, which meant she was able to survive out in the bush.

“That’s why she was okay not being shorn for so long because she doesn’t grow wool on her face,” Ms Gray said.

The family’s farm was burnt by the 2013 fires and 50 kilometres of fencing had to be replaced.

“It was during that time that she got trapped at the back of the farm, and once the new fences went back in she couldn’t get back to the rest of the sheep,” Ms Gray said.

Prickles has had to adjust back to life out of isolation, including seeing turkeys, ducks, and other sheep.

Ms Gray said the sheep will spend the rest of her days in the retirement paddock.

“She will have a very nice time after her fleece comes off,” she said.

Fleecing money for a good cause
Ms Gray is running a competition to guess the weight of Prickles’ fleece to raise money online through MyCause for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

She said her family and Prickles were lucky to be able to self-isolate on a farm in Tasmania.

“It got us thinking about the people in the world who can’t isolate during this COVID-19 crisis, like people in refugee camps,” she said.

“The money will go to people who aren’t as fortunate as Prickles.”

Ms Gray said she was not sure if Prickles’ fleece was a record breaker.

“She was pretty heavy [but] there’s a lot of sheep under that fleece as well,” she said.

The sheep will be shorn on May 1, and the fleece will need to be heavier than 41.1 kilograms to make the record books.