In Laguna Beach, the signals of spring’s arrival include sightings of native lupine and poppy, greening of brush in open space and the bleating of goats in some neighborhoods.
This past Monday night, residents of Bluebird Canyon encountered a herd in an unexpected spot as the animals trampled yards and spilled into the street.
Apparently, something startled the 125-goat herd, whose movement together overwhelmed a temporary enclosure that allowed them to escape into the lower Bluebird Canyon neighborhood, Fire Chief Jeff LaTendresse said.
The four-legged foragers recruited seasonally for the last two decades to eat brush on Laguna hillsides before flames do didn’t go far. They wandered from their pen near the Bluebird Canyon tennis court uphill towards Oriole Street and a no-doubt delectable pasture, a flower-planted slope.
A neighbor alerted high school senior Carter Fraser of the unusual event about 9:45 p.m. “I was surprised to see more than 40 goats consuming the flowers behind my car on Max Brown’s hill. Sadly, the goats managed to devour the majority of Max’s flowers, which helped retain the soil on the hill from sliding into the street,” Carter said in an email.
The goat herder, Ocatillo, was contacted, he easily rounded up the runaways by pursing his lips and emitting a distinctive whistle, said LaTendresse, sounding impressed. An electrified fence that emits a low-voltage shock when touched normally adequately corrals the herd, he said.
The on-site goat herder stays in a trailer that travels with the herd from the Indachochea Sheep Ranch, based in Perris, he said.
LaTendresse said he intends to meet with property owner Max Brown to “assess and see if anything needs to be done at all.”
After devouring weeds and lowering fire risk in Bluebird Canyon, the herd in coming weeks will relocate to Top of the World, near Thurston and behind the Festival of Arts, LaTendresse said. In previous springs, two herds have taken to local slopes.