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They’ve 'goat' your back | 1,000 goats, sheep deployed for Sacramento wildfire suppression

A goat grazing program is helping to suppress wildfire activity.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The city of Sacramento has deployed goats and sheep from nearby Legacy Ranching in Penn Valley. As many as 1,000 animals are eating away at about 212 acres of land in north Natomas. The city says these are areas where it’s hard to get lawnmowers through without hitting rocks and sparking a fire in doing so. 

"The grazing animals can actually get to areas that may be a little difficult for a machine to get to -- a mower or even a person. So, they can get into some very small nooks and crannies" said Shawn Aylesworth, park maintenance manager with the city of Sacramento.

The terrain can be rugged on portions of the trails, so this is where the goats come in. The goats were deployed in the fall of last year, but they’re being called in sooner this year.

After October and December storms caused heavy rain, the grasses began sprouting much sooner than normal. That growth has been seen across Northern California. Now, the drying trend from January through mid-March is becoming worrisome.

"What we're seeing is our vegetation is already dry. We haven't had the moisture that's falling from the skies that help keep it green as we're moving into the spring and the summer months" said Sacramento Fire Captain Keith Wade.

Once these goats and sheep are done grazing in about a month, they will be shipped to the North Laguna Creek Wildlife Area, where they can help eat away at the grass there. 

"The goats are a great way to come in, take that labor intensive work away from the humans, if you will, and to help keep the community safe" Wade said.

Aside from using less lawn mowing equipment and actual labor, these livestock also take an eco-friendly approach. 

"I think the largest motivator for us was the the stewardship of these areas, the natural weight means of maintaining the fire, you know, suppressing loads. It was just out doing the right thing for the community and for the environment" Aylesworth said.

The goat grazing program is expected to return to the same areas once again in the summer months.

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