For the next month or two, sheep, lambs and goats will be grazing the tall grass at the Mace Community Ranch Park Habitat Preserve to create a better environment for the burrowing owl indigenous to that area.
This is the second year of a no-cost arrangement approved by the city’s wildlife specialist John McNerney between Davis and a local ranching family. In this arrangement, livestock get fed and the city doesn’t have to spend its resources on maintaining the preserve.
The benefits of the arrangement is that the city is saving money on using herbicides, and it’s also more integrated pest management by not using pesticides if you don’t need to, said a coordinator from the Parks and Community Services Department, who asked to remain anonymous.
Using lawnmowers to keep the grass down uses up city resources, and having the livestock to do it saves the city both money and resources, he added.
Because the habitat preserve was created for the burrowing owl, it would be counterintuitive not to maintain the area in a way the burrowing owl is accustomed to. This arrangement between the ranching family and the city is necessary for maintaining this area because the owls are accustomed to lower grass around their dens to protect themselves from predators.
Using sheep is a little more natural than the other methods, said UC Davis wildlife, fish and conservation biology professor Dirk H. Van Vuren. Although the sheep are not native to this area, they were native animals with burrowing animals. Burrowing animals were never native of lawnmowers and herbicides.
Not only do the sheep provide an efficient and safe means of maintaining the grass at the preserve, they also provide a means of entertainment for the city of Davis.
Me and my children were walking through the park when we saw [the sheep],said Davis resident Jose Garcia. We’ve been playing with the sheep and feeding them grass for a half-hour. It has been a really nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
The sheep are located at the Mace Ranch Community Park at 3141 Fifth St.
There have been no incidents reported of harm to either the sheep or humans, and this arrangement has been very successful for both the ranching family and the city.
For more information, or if there is any irregular activity with the livestock, call the Parks and Community Services Department at 757-5626.
ALEX BULLER can be reached at email@example.com.