California goats are natural-born firefighters
- SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Move over Smokey the Bear. In California,
thousands of goats are helping prevent wildfires.
From hilly San Francisco to more rural settings, California
landowners, business and officials have hired the voracious animals
to devour the grass and brush that fuels wildfires.
Last year, more than 5,500 fires blackened over 168,000 acres in the
most populous U.S. state.
"Goats are just another tool in the toolbox for California and we try
to use as many tools as possible," California Department of Forestry
and Fire Protection spokesman Michael Jarvis said in an interview
Goats are munching on vegetation that is thriving throughout the
state after an exceptionally wet winter.
Some herds are doing double duty: preventing fires and protecting
Bob Blanchard, a rancher in Cayucos, California, near the Diablo
Canyon nuclear power plant, said his herds of Spanish meat goats
devour brush around the plant and on the rugged hillsides under high-
voltage power lines.
"Fire safety is one part and plant security is the other part. The
security people there want to be able to see over the whole area,"
His herds, ranging in size from 300 to 700 goats, are working under a
10-year contract with Diablo Canyon owner PG&E Corp.
Diablo Canyon spokesman Jeff Lewis said, "The goats give us a good
firebreak under the transmission lines and we don't have to rely on
any insecticides or controlled burns."
Three shepherd dogs are assigned to each herd to foil attacks by
coyotes or cougars looking for a meal.
Goatherds have been deployed in urban settings as well.
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission hired herds from Goats
R Us, of Orinda, California, to keep the land around the city's 13
reservoirs tidy and to chow down on dried flammable brush, PUC
spokeswoman Maureen Barry said.
"Did you know that goats once grazed on Russian Hill before it was
built up?" Barry asked. "Well, now they're back and the city is
getting excellent results."
Turning to goats to stop wildfires By Leonard Anderson
Fri Jun 24, 2005