'Lawn-Mowing' Goats Helping to Prevent Wildfires in California

Tuesday, 29 Jul 2014 12:42 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Five hundred goats are turning into "eco-friendly lawn mowers" for a month to prevent wildfires in the hills outside a national laboratory in California, The Daily California reports.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory hired Goats R Us for the 17th straight year to eat brush on 100 acres of land, which is aimed at reducing the risk of wildfires spreading to the Berkeley lab.

Tom Price, the lab's maintenance supervisor, said the goats, or "ecobs" as they are dubbed, are herded around the property over the course of four weeks to eliminate the fire danger.

"They work on a steep terrain that is extremely difficult and exhausting for human beings to work on," Price said. "They do excellent work, and it's almost impossible for humans to do the same work they're doing with their everyday routine."

Price pointed out that the goats are only permitted to eat through six inches of brush so that their munching does not cause soil erosion.

Founded in 1931, the lab overlooking the University of California Berkeley conducts scientific research on behalf of the Department of Energy.

Goats R Us was founded in 1995 with just 54 animals, and now has grown to 7,500 head.

Lynn Huntsinger, a UC Berkeley professor of environmental science, policy and management, said goats are now often used for grazing purposes to prevent an overgrowth of brush.

"People aren't afraid of goats, so they're quite popular," Huntsinger said. "Parks and agencies want people to like what they're doing. Goats are people-pleasers.

"If it's really steep, goats are the best. Goats are really funny little creatures; they love to climb."

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