Sure enough, our beloved goats have returned from their off-season stomping grounds. We spotted the billies roaming the lower reaches of Hiller Highlands this afternoon, making rapid progress on a now-mowed patch. You might catch a glimpse yourself, while looping from 24 West to 13 South.
With brush growing quickly around here, these goats contribute to annual fire-prevention efforts. The East Bay Regional Park District has scheduled two major grazings this year – first in Claremont Canyon from May 23rd – June 3rd, and then at Redwood Regional Park from July 19th – August 4th.
To prepare for fire season, the goats won’t have to operate alone. The Park District already has cut down brush and intends to oversee controlled burns along with local fire officials. As soon as calm weather prevails, these burns will take place in Gwinn Canyon, a high-risk area flanking Claremont Canyon. So don’t be alarmed if you see a little weekday smoke in the hills.
Within a couple weeks, Montclarions will need to start working as well. It’s almost time to get out your machetes and slay the greenery growing too closely to your homes. While still a whisper, there will be rallying cries: defensible space! defensible space! defensible space!
April 20th Update: The NY Times Bay Area blog reported about local goats, since our Oakland City Council is deliberating on whether to approve (or not approve) $250k for goat grazing on city-owned lands.
In Oakland, we do have a couple farm animals. You need to know where to look, but city dogs can definitely meet a city goat or two.
Here’s some photographic proof. Let’s start with this local dog who, like many around the hills, was out on a daily stroll. The pooch was leashed and not running free, but still asked its human to visit Valley View’s billies.
Clearly the dog wanted to meet-and-greet the goats, and came right up to the fence surrounding them. Here you see one goat who returned the favor and showed interest in this alien being. While both are curious, the goat is a little wary and standing back.
We really enjoy the goats around here. There are temporary “hired hands,” munching on the grass and preventing fires. And there are permanent goat residents, which are a welcomed anachronism.
Hands down, goats are better than people for weed-wacking duties.
In the East Bay, we rely on goat herds to prevent fires every summer. They are willing laborers who eat away at weeds and overgrowth, and generally help keep us safe. Right now, you can see hundreds of them perched across the hillsides near the Oakland Zoo – and they are a sight to behold.
In contrast, Los Angelenos employ human beings to eliminate weeds. Yesterday, some weed-wackers were working near the Getty Museum and sparked a severe brush fire. Yes, the people attempting to prevent fires actually caused one.
This brush fire began Wednesday before 1pm, and is now 90% contained. According the LA Times, the fire forced the evacuation of 1,600 Getty visitors and 800 employees, as well as 75 people at Mount St. Mary’s College nearby. Several 405 Freeway exits were closed, though things may get back to normal fairly soon.
This time, Los Angeles folks were spared because the fire blew away from civilization. However LA fires are just as prevalent as fires up here, and prevention measures do matter. Maybe there’s a lesson learned: Get rid of the people! Rely on the goats as we do!
This morning, I noticed hundreds of goats hard at work. They are quickly munching through brush and grasses – and getting rid of the tinder that spreads fires. As you drive on Rt. 580, glance over to the hills near Knowland Park. You can’t miss the munching workers!
These goats actively tour the area. Last month, I spotted them on a field between Rts. 238 and 880. I wondered when they would make their next appearance, and am glad they have returned.
According to the Governator, fire season is “all year” now. Of course, the 800 fires raging through California are mind-blowing, and very early this year.
For the Oakland Hills, let’s hope the Hiller flare-up is our 2008 fire story. We have to be realistic, though, about the continued risks from man-made and natural sparks. Thus our goat workers are welcomed allies, beforehand.