Forget a gardener — Elings Park just hired a flock of 200 Merino sheep to keep its south bluffs free of weeds. These sheep, fondly nicknamed the “ewes with ocean views,” will graze on the park’s fire-prone and invasive plants, all the while conditioning the soil with their hooves.
Sheep are both a healthier and cuter alternative to herbicides, and Elings will host the flock over the next two or so weeks, depending on appetites. The public is welcome to hike onto the bluffs during daylight hours to see them in action.
“To our knowledge, this is a first for the park,” said Elings Park Operations Director, Marinella Baker. “We’re curious to see the effect on the landscape, and we plan to monitor it over the coming years.”
Merino sheep, best known for their high-quality wool, are highly adaptable and thrive in almost any climate because of their affinity for hardy weeds. Originally domesticated in New Zealand and Australia, they have a strong flocking instinct, making them perfect for targeted grazing.
The sheep are provided by Cuyama Lamb, a central California ranching outfit that specializes in land restoration and lamb products. Previously dispatched to the Gaviota Coast, San Marcos Preserve, and Quail Ridge, the flock is protected and kept in place by fencing and netting. At night, it’s watched over by big Great Pyrenees sheepdogs, who’ve lived with the flock since their puppyhood.
The work is being carried out in collaboration with Channel Islands Restoration, a nonprofit organization specializing in education and the management of both native and invasive plant species.