Westmont hired brush-eating goats in August to clear defensible space around the campus, better protecting the college from future wildfires. Brush Goats 4 Hire, a Santa Barbara County company, delivered a herd of penned goats that chewed their way through several areas targeted by the Montecito Fire Department.
Troy Harris, Westmont director of risk management, says the goats have been a success on other fire department-monitored work in Montecito. “Each year the college takes an active role in reducing the brush fuel load on campus, removing large quantities of underbrush,” Harris says. “The recent fires have demonstrated the importance of such efforts.”
Fire officials targeted three areas where the goats reduced flammable foliage: west and north of Page Hall, south of the bridge on La Paz Road, and just above the northwest corner of Chelham Way.
Harris says the goats are an environmentally friendly alternative to clearing brush. “The goats naturally fertilize the soil, assisting with erosion control,” he says. “We don’t have to use chemical weed abatements. The goats are also much quieter than weed whackers, chippers, or bulldozers.”
The goats, kept within electric-fenced pens and monitored by surveillance cameras, will eat poison oak, chaparral and other plant growth. The animals are also protected by predator control dogs responsible for guarding against wild animals entering the pens.