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How Goats Are Being Used To Prevent Wildfires In Ireland

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Ireland had an exceptionally bad fire season this year. Wildfires swept along Irish hillsides all summer long. One major blaze covered Dublin's downtown area with smoke, and authorities struggled to contain it.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Ireland's hills are often covered with a dry shrub called gorse that is responsible for a lot of the fires there, so officials now have a plan to prevent gorse fires next year.

MELISSA JEUKEN: So goats love gorse, so that's a happy win-win situation.

MARTIN: That's Melissa Jeuken. She's a professional goat herder who has just started a new job training goats to eat gorse, but to do so strategically to prevent wildfires.

JEUKEN: The old Irish goat, it's Ireland's indigenous breed. They're stocky, sturdy, hardy animals, so they're well used to poor quality forage to sustain them. So all the browsing on the hill will be ideal for them.

INSKEEP: Right now Jeuken's herd is a crew of 25 females, although she says not everyone is settled in.

JEUKEN: There's one lady there, Sheila (ph). She's about 6 months old. She wasn't reared with the herd, so she's only adjusting into the herd. They're not very accepting of her. And with the tall grasses and shrubs here at the moment, she does get lost sometimes, and nobody answers her back. So I'm her only friend at the moment.

MARTIN: Sheila won't be lost for long thanks to GPS

JEUKEN: They're wearing a collar and - with GPS tracking. And it will allow us to create virtual fences so we can target specific grazing areas to graze firebreaks or regrowth control.

INSKEEP: In a week or two, they'll be going free range, trying to prevent more fires.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.