The BART bestiary expanded by one species this year when a flock of sheep took over fire mitigation duties previously held by their goat cousins, transit agency officials announced this week.
The sheep, like the goats before them, are employed to devour dried vegetation on BART property in order to reduce the fuels that could feed wildfires.
The goats first made their appearance two years ago and have been replaced by sheep because of the different types of plants the animals prefer — sheep like to eat grasses and short roughage, while goats tend to go for taller woody plants, BART officials said.
“Using heavy machinery poses a high risk of fire, too. We always carried backpacks of water in case something flared up.”Josh Soltero, BART Fence and Irrigation Technician, on benefits of using animals in weed control
“BART has been using goats for a while now, meaning there’s more fine grasses and less brush now,” said Mike Canaday, owner of Living Systems Land Management, the Fresno County company that provides the herds.
The four-legged fire suppressors are considered more beneficial than human crews because they’re more agile and can more easily clear rough terrain, they cost less and don’t use fume-spewing gas-powered mechanical equipment, according to BART.
“Using heavy machinery poses a high risk of fire, too,” said BART Fence and Irrigation Technician Josh Soltero. “We always carried backpacks of water in case something flared up.”
The sheep are munching their way up along the BART tracks from the Berryessa/North San Jose Station and will end their culinary journey at the Pittsburg/Bay Point Station.
As of Monday, they were grazing along the Yellow Line along Springbrook Road in Walnut Creek, BART officials said.
The use of goats and sheep to reduce fire fuels has become increasingly popular among Bay Area agencies in recent years, including the East Bay Regional Park District, the Oakland Fire Department and the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, among others.