Grazers Help City Prevent Wildfire in Natomas

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BY BRANDY TUZON BOYD
THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

It may look like a petting zoo, but it’s not.

A mixed flock of sheep and goats have been deployed to graze in the North Natomas Regional Park to reduce the risk of fire this summer.

According to Jonathan Moscato, park maintenance superintendent for the north area, the city started rolling out animals to the 130-acre regional park late last week.

The flock currently grazing in the North Natomas Regional Park is part of a pilot program launched last fall. The city parks department is charged with keeping grasses down and reducing fire fuels in its public park spaces, Moscato said.

Sacramento first tried grazing at 165-acre Del Paso Regional Park in fall 2021.

Moscato said the creek that runs through that park as well as the oaks and other trees made it difficult for park workers to mow and fires would occur in the areas equipment couldn’t access. That changed with the grazing pilot program.

“It just worked phenomenal,” Moscato said.

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The North Natomas Regional Park is roughly the same acreage, making it an “ideal location,” to try the grazing pilot program, he said. That’s because construction debris dumped in the park over the years — such as concrete — can make mowing risky.

“… One spark will set that area on fire,” Moscato said.

The city has contracts with different ranches for its grazing pilot program.

“Every rancher has an obligation to protect their animals,” Moscato said. “Someone is on site 24-hours a day and herding dogs live out there with the sheep and goats.”

The fence surrounding the flock, he added, is electrified. A direct telephone number to the rancher is also posted on the fence.

The grazing period depends on how quickly the animals moved through the area. A high concentration of animals are fenced in a small area and once they’ve grazed down that spot, they will be moved to another section of the park.

Moscato said the animals graze six to seven acres a day. He estimated this first graze at the North Natomas Regional Park will take between 26 to 30 days

“It’s lush and green, perfect for animals now,” said Moscato, adding the grass in some parts of the park is three feet tall.

Moscato said he anticipates a second grazing at the end of June or early July to make sure fire fuels have been reduced.

The city will also be using grazers at the Laguna Creek Wildlife Area this year.

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