Sheep to shear weeds from prairie preserve in Winnipeg pilot project

The city is piloting a two-week projected beginning Monday that will see a number of sheep graze on a preserved patch of tall grass prairie at Winnipeg's Living Prairie Museum.

Animals will graze, manage tall grass prairie area at Living Prairie Museum for 2 weeks, city says

The city is piloting a project at the Living Prairie Museum that will see sheep graze on the preserve's tall grass prairie. (Warren Kay/CBC)

A group of sheep will start chowing down on grasses and weeds in Winnipeg this week as part of an experiment to see whether the woolly creatures can help conserve a piece of natural prairie history.

The city let sheep loose on the tall grass prairie preserve at Winnipeg's Living Prairie Museum on Monday. The two-week pilot project is designed to see how effective the animals' grazing is at managing vegetation and weed growth in the 12-hectare plot of land.

"There have been a number of studies showing that grazers can have a positive effect when maintaining natural areas and can be an effective tool for weed control," said Rodney Penner, the naturalist with the city. 

"We are very excited to join the list of Canadian cities, such as Edmonton and Calgary, who are looking to such innovative ways of managing vegetation in naturalized park spaces."

The city plans to kick off the pilot Monday afternoon.

Grazing animals, including sheep, stimulate vegetation growth as they graze and fertilize the soil with their poop.

The sheep will spend weekdays munching in a fenced-in enclosure, which will be moved around the preserve as sections are trimmed. They will be moved back to the farm for weekends. (Warren Kay/CBC)

The pilot is in partnership with Millar Safety & Environmental Services, Prairie Habitats Inc. and a Manitoba sheep farmer. 

The sheep will spend weekdays in a fenced-in enclosure that will be moved around the preserve as they mow down grasses and be moved back to the farm for weekends.

The Living Prairie Museum was set aside as protected land in 1968 with the goal of raising awareness about the importance of conserving tall grass prairie and other natural spaces. It is home to 160 prairie plants and a number of species of prairie wildlife.

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