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Eating, bleating and re-seeding

Restoration of native grass at Needlegrass Creek all began with .... a herd of goats

IRVINE, Calif. — Sometimes old technology still works best.

So when Irvine Company began restoring 105 acres of grassland near Needlegrass Creek, it turned to an old reliable source: goats!

That would be 700 noisy goats employing the original “cutting edge” technology—their teeth.

Over the years, artichoke thistle, sweet fennel and non-native grasses had overtaken the hillsides adjacent to the Needlegrass Grassland Conservation Area.

In 2012, Irvine Company launched efforts to restore the native grassland. It brought in goats to do three things:

  • Eat to their hearts’ content.
  • Scarify (or crack open the seed coats of) newly spread needlegrass seed with their hooves.
  • And dibble (or tamp down) the freshly opened needlegrass seeds with their hooves.

The goats grazed roughly five-acre plots at a time until the weeding and re-seeding was done. They returned in 2014.

The restoration continues but native needlegrass has returned. And so have grasshopper sparrows and white-tailed kites now seen foraging along Needlegrass Creek.

—May 2016