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Goats and sheep have cleared Elk Grove’s creeks and canals



The cattle are back and roaming the open spaces of Elk Grove until the end of June.

Each year, a flock of 7,000 sheep graze and goats tend the grass with their children, or baby goats, in creeks and canals throughout the city. During the wet season, bright vegetation grows to reduce the danger of wildfires.

Kara Reddig, Elk Grove’s deputy city manager, said the city is choosing to use domesticated animals as opposed to traditional weed control methods such as heavy equipment, herbicides and weed control methods.

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“There is a herder with them who has a specific area where they feed and then moves on from that area based on whether the vegetation has decreased,” Reddig said. “So they move systematically along a creek or canal, depending on how many weeds there are left to eat.”

The city is working with Integrazers, a grazing management contractor that provides livestock with the unwanted growth. According to a YouTube video from Integrazers, the herd likes to eat dandelions, thistles and yellow wood sorrel.

“The city of Elk Grove is trying to do weed control in a green way,” Reddig said. “By using goats and sheep we reduce the need for manual removal or mechanical means to remove weeds in our creeks and canals.”

According to the city’s website, livestock will eat nearly 2 to 4 acres of vegetative space per day.

There are numerous benefits to the city’s grazing management of goats and sheep, Reddig said.

“It is environmentally balanced and cost-effective,” she said. “It helps with better vegetation on the water banks. It helps reduce soil erosion and improves air and water quality. And it has less impact on fish and wildlife habitat than a mechanical means of removing weeds.”

Can I go and see the animals?

Yes.

According to the city, people can take a look at the sheep and goats hard at work.

“Kids always walk along the path where they are,” Reddig said. “I think it’s just an added benefit of something that families can watch. Kids and families love keeping track of where they are and going out to say hello. I have a creek behind me and my kids are always outside when they are behind my house. They love it.”

Can I pet them?

No, visitors should not approach, touch or attempt to feed the animals, and residents should not get too close to the fences, city officials warned, because Integrazers use electric fence and herding dogs to protect livestock.

“While the sheepdogs are friendly,” according to the city’s website. “When the fencing is up, they are there to guard the herd. Please do not try to touch the fence or pet the flock or dogs.”

How can you track them?

Those who want to see where the animals are currently grazing can check out the interactive map created by the city’s Geographic Information System, or GIS.

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Marcus D. Smith is the Elk Grove reporter for The Sacramento Bee. He joined The Bee in 2020 and provided coverage of Black communities for the Equity Lab. Prior to The Bee, Smith covered high school sports at the Citrus Heights Sentinel. He received his journalism degree from Texas Southern University.