Have you herd? The sheep are back to shear Montreal's city grass
Flocks of nature's lawn mowers are out in Rivière-des-Prairies and Rosemont
If you've never wanted to cuddle a lawn mower before, you might after a visit to a handful of Montreal parks this summer.
Flocks of sheep have returned for another season of landscaping duties in the Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles and Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie boroughs, where they'll be chomping on grass, weeds and invasive plants.
"They do the job of a lawn mower, essentially," said Amber Forrester, an urban shepherd with Biquette à Montreal, the organization behind the annual initiative in the city.
Biquette advocates for eco-grazing — using animals instead of machines to maintain green spaces.
Forrester, a volunteer with the group since 2020, said the benefits of the practice include a reduction in air and sound pollution, as well as increased biodiversity thanks to the animals' droppings.
"When you have traditional lawn mowers out in a park, they're using gas, they're making a lot of noise," she said. "With sheep.... they're quiet, they're natural fertilizers."
Sheep willingly munch on "anything that is green or low to the ground," said Forrester, adding plantain, dandelions and clover are their chow of choice.
Forrester was at Chevalier-Cuivré Park on Sunday in Rivière-des-Prairies training this summer's team of volunteer urban shepherds.
The job entails using a makeshift shepherd's crook to herd sheep, tending to them and keeping them away from bike paths, roads and park dwellers.
Marie-Andrée Fréreault was back volunteering for a second year in a row, saying she couldn't wait to meet this year's flock.
"I really like spending time with animals," she said. "I'm always looking forward to volunteering here once a week."
"I think it's important to have more eco-friendly ways to maintain our green spaces and I think it's really a good idea for the neighbourhood."
Forrester said people can approach the animals and ask the volunteers questions. She said dogs are always welcome in the parks so long as they're leashed and kept a safe distance from the sheep.
As of Sunday, the animals will be grazing every day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in André-Corbeil-dit-Tranchemontagne Park and Chevalier-Cuivré Park until July 24.
Starting June 11, a flock will return to Maisonneuve Park in Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie until Sept. 4.
Although the sheep will be heading back to their farms outside the city at the end of the season, Fréreault hopes the project can be expanded to more parks next year.
"I hope that some other parks are going to pick up on this and do the same thing and have more animals in the city," she said.
Based on a report by Kwabena Oduro