Why Are There 268 Goats on Red Dog?

Category: Operations Blog

Have you seen the newest crew working on the hill? Here are some details about our trial vegetation management program with over 200 goats grazing in the Red Dog area.

Group of goats working on vegetation management in the Red Dog area of Squaw Valley
Photo: Kate Abraham

Who?

A herd of 268 goats arrived at Squaw Valley yesterday, accompanied by a herdsman and herding dogs.

They come from The Goat Works in Grass Valley and travel all over to help with vegetation management and fire hazard reduction.

Herding Dog at Squaw Valley
Photo: Brandon Skinner

What?

A vegetation management trial program using a herd of goats.

Vegetation management is a critical element of keeping our terrain healthy. Every year we cut and clear trees and brush around the resort to prevent overgrowth and mitigate wildfire risk, all while using “Best Management Practices” or BMP’s to prevent soil erosion. This trial program will use an animal herd to graze areas where vegetation management is needed. Vegetation in the area consists of willow growth in the 6-12’ range, in addition to deer brush, buckbrush, mountain mahogany, manzanita, and various grasses/herbs.

268 Goats are at Squaw Valley to Help with Vegetation Management and Fire Hazard Reduction
Photo: Brandon Skinner

Why?

Traditionally we use hand crews with chainsaws/cutters or equipment with wheels or tracks for vegetation management. These methods present challenges, however, when working in very steep areas or wetland areas with fast growing willow trees—machines aren’t able to access steep zones and could harm sensitive areas, and hand cutting can be tough on equipment and workers. This is why we are trying out animal grazing as a possible third component to our vegetation management program.

Grazing can also reduce fuel loading without use of equipment that could spark a wildfire.

Goats grazing off Squaw Valley's Red Dog
Photo: Kate Abraham

Where?

A 7.6 acre area on Red Dog Face and Lower Dog Leg

There is also a designated bedding space for the herd to sleep.

Goats grazing off Squaw Valley's Red Dog
Photo: Kate Abraham

When?

Starting September 9, lasting three or four days, depending on how efficient the herd is.

The herd has the ability to graze over 2.5 acres a day. If the trial is successful, we will consider continuing in other areas as well.

Goats grazing off Squaw Valley's Red Dog
Photo: Kate Abraham

Where else is this used? Other ski resorts?

Goats are commonly used for vegetation management and fire suppression in California.

Goats are commonly used to graze ski resorts in Europe, but the practice is less common in the U.S. We know that resorts in New England as well as the Canyons in Utah have implemented programs in the past. We are not familiar with any similar programs at ski resorts in California.

Goat grazing off Squaw Valley's Red Dog
Photo: Kate Abraham