Kids were back on West Ranch High School’s campus on Friday, but not in the way that most would expect.
At approximately 10 a.m., Wildcat staff and a handful of students looked out their windows to find a herd of roughly 200 goats and sheep had wandered onto their campus, leisurely taking over the school’s parking lot before turning their attention to the greenery of the school’s sport fields.
The adult livestock and their offspring, according to campus officials, are normally neighbors to the school, as opposed to roommates, and are usually seen roaming the hills surrounding West Ranch’s campus grazing and clearing brush on behalf of FivePoint Holdings, LLC.
For the past few years, FivePoint has been developing a brand new 21,000-home community across a 15,000-acre area that sits near West Ranch High School. The goats were introduced as part of a program by the housing developer to clear brush and dead vegetation alongside the hillside as a way to limit fire danger.
“The goats and sheep are part of a targeted grazing and dry-brush management program, which is a sustainable alternative to removing dry-brush and grass that would otherwise be done with hand crews or rely on fossil fuels,” said Eric Morgan, a FivePoint spokesman. “We routinely transfer temporary fencing that allow the goats and sheep to graze new areas of dry grass and brush, and the herd found their way through this fence line during today’s transfer.”
According to a report published by the University of California, goats and other livestock have become more common in urban areas and other green spaces throughout the state, typically grazing and clearing brush in small areas of about 10 acres in size.
The sheep and goats tend to have different preferences when it comes to eating clovers, shrubs and grass, and therefore both are sometimes used in the same herd to ensure a more complete brush clearing and mitigation, according to the UC report. A herd of 30 goats can reportedly clear half an acre of brush and weeds in three to four days, depending on the terrain and food availability.
West Ranch Principal Robert Fisher said that, at least for the past few weeks, the few staff members and students on campus during their summer break have become accustomed to seeing the herd up on the hills around the school before coming down at the end of the day to be picked up.
“But today, it just so happened to be that they got loose on our campus,” said Fisher. “They were mainly in the parking lot, but they were headed toward our baseball fields.”
It was at that time that Fisher, along with a handful of parents and members of his staff, became shepherds, working together to round up the herd and usher them back on the hillside. After FivePoint officials quickly arrived on the scene, Mia Reed, West Ranch’s office manager, even joked on Friday that the site staff had given the herd’s sheep dog water to drink.
“The goats and sheep were immediately and safely returned back to their original grazing location,” said Morgan.
“I don’t mind it at all,” said Fisher, when asked how he felt about the temporary herd migration. “The goats (and sheep) are pretty friendly; and they’re doing a great job.”