Four goats have been enrolled in the volunteer program at The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Ramona, CA. That’s right. Goats. At a wildlife center. Volunteering.
Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is one of the lessons the wildlife center teaches to the local community and tries to incorporate into their own facility whenever possible. Examples of IPM are the use of gopher baskets, owl boxes, squirrel watering holes, and strategically placed wild garlic.
Gopher baskets are wire containers that surround the root ball of fruit trees to protect them from being eaten by gophers. Owl boxes encourage barn owls to move into the area and keep the rodent population at bay. Squirrels are notorious for chewing irrigation lines to get to water, but if you provide squirrel watering holes, they leave the irrigation tubes alone. And wild garlic is a beautiful flowering plant with delicate purple flowers that attract butterflies … and the stinky bulb turns off skunks, opossums, and other would-be garden destroyers. The wildlife center has also brought in thousands of ladybugs when their trees were infested with lerps, a harmful insect that ladybugs like to eat.
All of these are examples of solving problems without using poisons, toxins, or traps. But where do goats fit into IPM plans at The Fund For Animals Wildlife Center?
After years of drought, California has had a wonderfully wet year with rainfall that has exceeded all expectations. And with that, plant life has come back with a vengeance. The mountain desert area of Ramona grows some nasty plants as they try to seek out their survival rights; many are armed with burs, spikes, and thorns. In the open spaces of the landscape, these defenses protect the plants from being munched on by animals. But when they grow inside an enclosed animal habitat where an animal is trying to recover from injuries and illness, these plants need to be evicted for the safety of the animal patient and the human caretakers.
But with 13 acres and dozens of animal habitats, the staff and volunteers that operate the Fund for Animals Wildlife Center could not pull, mow, or chop the weeds fast enough on their own. Hundreds of wild animals have already come in for rehabilitation and medical treatment and the wicked weeds were getting higher and more dangerous, making several of the habitats unsafe to use.
The solution? We asked a few goats to volunteer as landscapers!
The goats are literally working for food. The fab four do not care at all if a leaf has spurs or a flower has burs, they are happy to eat anything everything that is green and in their path. After just one week of service, the goats have successfully removed the dangerous plants from six habitats and are being rotated to other habitats every other day. These habitats are vacant except for the goats, and the native wildlife move in after the goats clear out.
It is not all hard work and no play for the hooved volunteers; they have been given treats such as oranges and berries and receive an all-body grooming to make sure no burs are sticking to their coats as they work. Having the service of the goats has allowed human volunteers to focus their attention on the injured animals in their care and not on pulling weeds. Everyone is very happy!
While this is an unusual form of Integrated Pest Management, the Fund for Animals Wildlife Center solved an environmental problem without the use of chemicals while minimizing risks to people and wildlife…and also supplementing the diets of four lucky goats who are quickly on their way to earning the Volunteer of the Month award. Who will win Top Goat? Nutmeg, Sugar, Darwin, or Ferguson?
Volunteers of the human kind are always needed at the Wildlife Center in Southern California. Visit Fund for Animals for more information.
The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center is a 13-acre property that treats more than 800 native wild animals annually for injuries or ailments and is home to 11 rescued native and exotic animals who were removed from the pet trade. The Center has helped more than 17 thousand animals since it opened in 1984 and is operated by The Fund for Animals, an affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States.
All Image Source: The Fund for Animals