Goats and Sheep Now Graze at Elings Park to Provide Eco-Friendly Fire Prevention, Invasive Plant Removal, Fertilizer, and Aid Return of California Natives

Two different flocks of fuzzy four-legged grazers can be seen in Elings Park in coming weeks, with 140 goats grazing in Godric Grove, and 350 sheep in the South Bluffs area.

This is the first year for goats, provided by Ventura Grazing Goats, that arrived on Thursday, April 25 to work in an area adjacent to Godric Grove for approximately one week. Their efforts are part of a renovation of the Park’s popular wedding and event venue, now open to the public after a three-month renovation. The flock is a mix of crossbred Boer goats with a few crossbred Dorper sheep.

The flock of Merino sheep is already in residence, currently located near the paraglider parking lot, but they move to fresh fodder every few days. They will stay through May 3, depending on their appetites. This is the fourth consecutive year for sheep from Cuyuma Lamb in Maricopa, California.

“It’s not just a walk in the park for these herbivores,” says Dean Noble, Elings Park’s executive director. “They are improving the eco-systems on our hillsides that have been invaded by non-native plants. We’re glad they are hungry, as they reduce fodder for wildfires, plus their hooves break-up hard soil to allow native plants to spread. Their manure is natural fertilizer.”

The public is welcome visit the Park during daylight hours to view the flock. The trailhead to the South Bluffs is off Jerry Harwin Parkway behind the Administration Building’s parking lot. Godric Grove is accessed via George Bliss Drive with limited parking at the Grove.

Safety precautions are in place, including fencing, netting, and regular observations. The fences have a mild electric shock, which would likely startle an unsuspecting dog. Cuyama Lamb says it is similar to the static shock when putting on a sweater in winter. Members EPDOG, the Park’s off-leash program, should take care to keep their dogs under control when near the pens.

Each flock has canine guardians. They may look alike, but are two different species. Jackson from Ventura Brush Goats is a Great Pyrenees, and Sierra from Cuyama Lamb is a Maremma Sheepdog (often called the “Italian version” of Great Pyrenees). Which is which? Maremmas are noticeably smaller than Great Pyrenees, and have triangular V-shaped ears with pointed tips that are set high on their heads. Great Pyrenees have triangular ears with rounded tips set at eye-level.

“It’s also highly likely that we will have lambs born here in the park again this year,” adds Noble. “It’s a wonderful family outing to visit the flock and the dogs and newborns just add to the fun.”

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