South Bay employs sheep as weapons against wildfire, herd attracts visitors to SJ hillside

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- On Communications Hill in San Jose is an unusual sight with sounds to match.

Hundreds of sheep have taken over the hillside. The flock could play a role in preventing the next round of wildfires, as the animals chew through flammable grass.

"The stairs are pretty popular," resident Mandy Milligan said about Communications Hill. "But everybody's taking pictures today because they're not used to seeing this."

On Monday afternoon, the herd was grazing along the grassy hillside.

"We just heard 'baa-baa,' and I'm like, the sheep must be back this year again," resident Linda Soriano said.

Sheep are back because the wet winter led to lush new growth in the area. The green hillsides could cause problems when the fire season starts.

Resident Angie Franks told ABC7 News, "I just thought that they probably belonged to maybe a local farmer that moved in or something."

Franks and her family were one of the many who stopped to take pictures of the herd.

Tuscany Hills HOA Vice President, Nick Patel told ABC7 News the approach was brainstormed by the community and the City of San Jose. Patel said the city is footing the bill for the flock of sheep.

The herd of hundreds was released over the weekend. The animals are fenced in and are bring supervised by a few herders to make sure they don't break loose.

Visitors are loving the livestock.

"I don't have to go to the zoo," Soriano said. "I just come up here with my daughter. We take her up, walking, and she wants to go and see the sheep."

Patel said the flock should graze for about a week. He explained the animals will be moved from section to section daily, to complete weed mitigation.

"I think it's awesome that this is what they're doing instead of having to use tractors and things to mow all the grass down," Milligan told ABC7 News.

"Good thing we have rain this year," resident Diego Moreno said. "It's not going to be too dry. So, we should be good... a little bit. These guys are helping us out."

The hope is the herd will reduce danger ahead of the next round of devastating California wildfires.
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