Zermatt To Use Sheep in Emergency Mountain Rescue Teams
Zermatt has announced a new pilot project to integrate sheep into their Alpine rescue effort beginning from this summer.

The Swiss resort reports that a few sheep have already been trained to look for and find injured hikers on their own in the Alpine area so that they can then be rescued in the shortest time possible.

“We are taking a major step forwards in mountain rescue beginning this summer,” says the helicopter pilot and CEO of Air Zermatt, Gerold Biner.
In collaboration with the 30-year old Zermatt sheep breeder, Rebecca Julen, a programme was developed for training the sheep as rescue sheep.
“The latest studies show that sheep have qualities, which were not known by scientists until now. However, we sheep breeders have known for some time that black-nose sheep are amazingly good at orienting themselves in the mountains,” said Rebecca Julen.

In addition, their sure-footedness, no fear of heights, terrain intelligence and weather resistance are better developed than in the search dogs.
“Our sheep know precisely how to get from A to B as quickly as possible in the mountains. Therefore, they are predestined to provide assistance in an Alpine setting,” emphasises Rebecca Julen.

Alpine rescue was developed in Zermatt in the 1960s – with helicopters, rescue columns of mountain guides, and including rescue dogs. Therefore, it seemed a natural progression that the ‘local experts’ assume a pioneering role by taking this unconventional step, a resort spokesperson explained. Preliminary work ran continuously all winter long. A training camp suitable for the animals was set up for a team of selected professional sheep.

“The first sheep have already completed various training units,” says Gerold Biner, CEO of Air Zermatt.

And this is how the “rescue sheep” project works:

The trained sheep move together with their herds over the open Alpine meadows throughout the summer. As soon as the trained black-nose sheep sense, hear or smell that a hiker is in trouble or even has collapsed in the meadow, they immediately set off for the injured person.

Since they wear an SOS set on their bodies, the injured person can call for help. The set has a clearly visible emergency button, which the victim can press, and this sets off the Sheep Alarm at the Air Zermatt helicopter base.
The pilot then flies towards the GPS location transmitted by the SOS set.

The set also has First Aid medication and material, which the missing person can use until the helicopter arrives. This is similar to the St. Bernard dogs with their schnapps barrels, which were the legendary rescuers back then.

“With modern technology and well oriented sheep, we are working on taking a new approach to the rescue process,” concludes the helicopter rescue specialist Gerold Biner.

Patrick Thorne, also known as the Snow Hunter, is an industry expert in all technical developments in snow sports. In addition to his work Patrick is also father and knows the importance and fun of kids on snow www.thesnowhunter.com.


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