Oregon is experiencing one of the worst fire seasons in history, as ten wildfires continue to burn across the state. Over 930,000 acres have already been burned, destroying thousands of homes and towns. But one town hopes to help prevent wildfires with a natural approach – goats.
Forest Grove, a city 25 miles outside of Portland, has hired a herd of 230 goats from a company called Healing Hooves to graze on their overgrown vegetation and brush. While there are countless ways for a wildfire to start, one way to prevent it is by clearing excess vegetation.
For the past four years, shepherd Craig Madsen has arrived to Forest Grove with his herd of goats to clear weeds and other unwanted plant material and in the process helped prevent the spread of wildfires. “They chew up the undergrowth and if its a fire that is creeping slowly they create a fire break,” Madsen told The Telegraph.
The U.S. Department of Interior advises people and cities to clean up plant material, which is fuel to wildfires. “During a wildland fire all kinds of plant material can act as fuel, including grasses, shrubs, trees, dead leaves, and fallen pine needles. As these burnable materials pile up, so do the chances of catastrophic wildland fire. In the right conditions, excess fuel allows fires to burn hotter, larger, longer, and faster, making them more difficult and dangerous to manage.”
Goats are a perfect solution for cleaning up undergrowth because they are natural foragers and aren’t bothered by poison ivy or steep inclines.
The herd will spend a week in the Forest Grove chomping through shrubs and weeds on a 14-acre property that will someday be turned into a city park. Madsen manages the herd by enclosing the area with a fence and with the help of his two canine pals Gigi and Nessie.
The goats can clear an acre in about a day and a half and love to eat. While people believe that goats will eat anything, Madsen said, “Goats have their preferences. They like to browse and prefer blackberries, brush and broad-leaved plants. People say that goats will eat anything, but actually they are pretty picky.”
Madsen posted goats are not the only great foragers to help with vegetation management, and encouraged people to consider cows and sheep. “Rangelands and grasslands need good ecosystem management just as much as forests to mitigate wildfire spread and remain healthy. They (cows and sheep) can also be part of removing vegetation and leaves from the forest floor.”
Aside from being efficient at clearing brush, goats are entertaining. In case you needed another reason to love goats, Healing Hooves posted, “Young goats love to play king of the mountain.”
With more and more wildfires occurring throughout the country and most due to human activities, we must all follow Smokey Bear’s advise, “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.”
Andrea Powell is an animal enthusiast that resides in West Michigan. When not writing, she is exploring the great outdoors with her dogs and horses.