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Hungry, brush-eating goats could help Texas firefighters

Friday, February 14, 2014
Tags:
texas, state

Fire prevention authorities are monitoring the work of some hungry goats in South Texas as a low-cost way to remove flammable brush and reduce the spread of wildfires in a state parched by drought.

More than two dozen barnyard animals, rented by city officials in Victoria, are dining daily on dense brush at a city park.

Officials at the Texas A&M Forest Service are monitoring the Boer-Spanish goats' handiwork on the scrub, some of it poisonous, that's closed parts of Riverside Park since 1998.

"We're making a big dent," goat owner Terry Hatfield told the Houston Chronicle. "They can clear about an acre a week, even 4-foot high brush. All the vines off the trees, too. When they're done, it's a manicured look."

The city's plan was to see if goats were more efficient than people and machinery because of their ability to climb terrain.

But the Forest Service is thinking more broadly as it seeks ways to lessen the outbreak of wildfires in Texas.

Bruce Woods, head of mitigation and prevention for the Forest Service, said teams of goats have been used for years in western states to prevent wildfires.

"Sometimes Texans bristle at things going on in other states," he told the Chronicle.

Woods said he hopes the Victoria experiment can be used to show other Texas cities and counties that goats can be effective in preventing wildfires.

If the appetite of the goats remains prodigious, and fire prevention officials are satisfied with their work, they may be in demand in the coming months.

"The potential is there," Woods said.

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(Copyright ©2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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