Elings Park sheep

A flock of 350 Merino sheep arrived at Elings Park on May 6th. The sheep were provided by Cuyama Lamb, a sheep breeder in Maricopa. The sheep, which can be seen on the South Bluff, are being used for fire prevention by eating excess weeds. The sheep also provide fertilizer to help the growth of native plants.

Merino sheep graze on a hill at Elings Park. (Leo Quinkert)

“We did a lot of investigation and found that not only would sheep remove dangerous, fire prone materials, the animals would also help with soil regeneration by aerating the ground and leaving behind fertilizer,” said Dean Noble, the executive director of Elings Park.

Elings Park has been using sheep for fire prevention since 2020. In addition, the sheep will eat invasive plants to give native plants more room to grow, providing an alternative to pesticides.

Two sheepdogs named Yoreh and Sierra keep watch over the sheep. They are Great Pyrenees dogs, which have been guarding livestock for thousands of years. They alternate between watching and resting every day. In the past, guard llamas were used at the park, but they escaped to the softball fields and rolled in the dirt.

“The llamas were not invited back,” Noble said.

Merino sheep eating invasive mustard plants. (Leo Quinkert)

This effort is supported by the Santa Barbara fire department.

“The Santa Barbara fire department is covering a portion of the cost of the sheep this year,” Noble said.

During previous years, goats were used alongside sheep, but they would step on the backs of the sheep to get to oak trees, which caused the sheep discomfort.

The sheep will be staying at Elings Park until June 1.

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