Sheep Grazing at Elings Park

We recruited 200+ Merino Sheep to remove fire prone plants and weeds!

Elings Park, Santa Barbara’s gathering place for nature, athletics and culture is bringing in fuzzy, eco-friendly specialists adept at removing fire-prone plants and devouring invasive weeds: Merino sheep.

The public is welcome to hike onto the south bluffs of Elings Park to view the flock during daylight hours.  Directional signs will be posted at trail heads off Jerry Harwin Parkway.  Sheep corrals will move every few days to target specific areas with details on latest locations posted on Elings Park social media.  There is a $5.00 parking charge on weekends. 

According to Jenya Schneider of Cuyama Lamb, LLC, “March is an ideal grazing time.  We want to take care of weeds before they start spreading.” “We take our proximity to neighbors on the Mesa seriously and this is a safe alternative to herbicides,” said Elings Park Executive Director, Dean Noble.  “While Elings Park is nearly three times the size of Disneyland, the flock will be concentrating on our south bluffs overlooking the Pacific.  You could call them ‘ewes with ocean views.’”

“To our knowledge this is a first for the Park.  We’re curious to see the effect on the landscape and we plan to monitor it over course of years,” said Elings Park Operations Director, Marinella Baker.  “We want to send a big ‘thank ewe’ to avid Park supporters, Susan, Peter and Ted Cheney, for supporting this innovative restoration project.”

The Magic of Ruminants 

“Ruminants” refers the cattle, sheep, antelopes, deer, giraffes, and their relatives.  These grazing animals briefly chew their food, swallow it, allow the first chamber in their stomach to partially digest it, and then pass it back into their mouth to chew again.  The process results in very thorough digestion of plant material and the unique digestive system of sheep is a perfect match for native grasses and plants.

In addition to removing unwanted and highly flammable vegetation, hoof impact from the flock will condition the soil by breaking up the hard clay layer allowing better water absorption and enabling roots to spread.  Trampling dead plant matter into soil creates natural conditions that favor native and perennial plant communities over non-native invasives.  Previous grazing projects outside the Park have shown that ground nesting birds will thrive in the right combination of grasses and space.

Sheep Safety

Cuyama Lamb has extensive experience with targeted grazing and will have many safety precautions in place including fencing, netting and regular observations.  At night, the flock will be protected by Great Pyrenees sheep dogs.  The Cuyama flock has resided in significantly wilder and more remote areas without incident thanks to this fearless breed with over 10,000 years of livestock guarding experience. Great Pyrenees weigh 100 to 160 pounds.  Popular photos of the enormous, fluffy white breed feature them standing on hind legs towering over their owners or peering over backyard fences.

About Cuyama Lamb, LLC

Jenya Schneider and Jack Anderson are the founders and operators of Cuyama Lamb, LLC.  In addition to sheep ranching in the Cuyama Valley, they have deployed their flocks to the Gaviota Coast, San Marcos Preserve and Quail Ridge.  Using sheep for regenerative grazing is an important part of the couple’s mission to harness the power of grazing to restore the native ecologies.

About Channel Islands Restoration

Volunteers to assist with public interpretation will be provided by Channel Islands Restoration.  The non-profit works to restore habitat on the Channel Islands and adjacent mainland through invasive plant management, native plant propagation, and native plant installation. They also promote environmental education on the Central Coast through lectures, service trips, and habitat restoration volunteer opportunities in addition researching and monitoring programs that further habitat restoration efforts.

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