Goats in Butte County help control overgrowth


The terrain looked better after the goats ate up the overgrowth. Photo credit: Melissa Herrera

A herd of 488 goats have been deployed in Upper Bidwell Park as a cost-saving measure to remove invasive species and dangerous plants, including those that pose a fire risk.

The goats, owned by Capra Environmental Services Corp, are on a 55-acre contract according to Linda Herman, Chico’s Park and Natural Resources Manager. The current plan, according to Herman, is to stop once the money for the goats runs out.

This is not the first time goats have been used in Chico for this purpose. Capra Environmental Services Corp. also brought their goats to Bidwell Park in the fall of 2018.

Butte College also has its own herd of goats to help with overgrowth in the Clear Creek Riparian zone on campus.

“About 20 years ago they introduced the goats out here to do vegetation control, specifically for blackberries,” Michael Walters, Butte College’s Farm Manager and Environmental Services Technician said.

Throughout the years, the goats have been able to eliminate a significant number of blackberry plants.

“We have knocked down probably 75% of the blackberries,” Walters said. “The goats did a really good job on that.”

The goats work by fencing off a section of the land that needs to be cleared and letting the goats roam in that area, feeding on the overgrowth. When the goats have cleared enough of the land, the fencing is moved to a different section.

Goats are also a great alternative to pesticides.

“I try to stay away from pesticides as much as possible, especially being a wildlife refuge here,” Walters said.

The goat program at Butte College is currently winding down. At the height of the program, Butte had around 30 goats on campus, according to Walters. That number has been decreasing.

“I started with 18 goats, and I am down to five,” Walters said. “At five goats, they don’t do that much.”

The numbers of goats have been dropping due to a mix of dying goats and a lack of funding for the program.

“The funding for the goat program has been pretty much cut off and so we haven’t been able to replenish those goats as they pass,” Walters said.

At Bidwell Park, the goats are scheduled to come back in the Spring.

At Butte College, the school is figuring out what to do about the goat program, including looking into alternatives.

“Right now we are talking about the next steps,” Walters said.

Jessie Imhoff can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JessieReports.