Grazing animals have been part of the ecosystem of the East Bay for many tens of thousands of years. Grazing animals, as well as common occurrences such as wildfire and drought, kept vegetation in check. However, since the arrival of Europeans, grasslands in the East Bay have largely become dominated by invasive, non-native, annual grasses.
Today, managed grazing is an important vegetation management tool utilized by the Park District to reduce fire fuels and maintain or improve habitat conditions for resident plants and wildlife. While in parks, visitors may often encounter cattle, sheep, or goats grazing, especially in the winter and early spring months. Over 60% of the District’s parkland is grazed throughout the year.
Benefits of Grazing:
• Reduces fire hazards by controlling grasses and other potential fire fuels.
• Gives native grasses and wildflowers, including rare species, a chance to compete with non-native grasses.
• Increases the diversity of habitats for wildlife, including several endangered species. It also promotes healthy ground squirrel populations, a necessary food source for prey species like bobcats and golden eagles, among others.
Animals grazing in the parks can come with some trade-offs. In the rainy season, cattle can impact sections of trail, making the ground muddy and unpleasant to walk through. Like all animals, cows also produce manure, so visitors must watch their step.
Cattle are large animals but are not aggressive by nature. However, if aggravated or threatened, they can respond, especially to off-leash dogs. To protect cattle in the important role of managing vegetation, the Park District requires that all dogs be on-leash when grazing animals are present.
For more information, visit Safety Tips for Hiking Near Grazing Animals.