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Whatever happened to the runaway goats of San Francisco?

Back in March, four or five goats scrambled along the streets of San Francisco and became instantly famous as videos of their runabout were posted on social media. What became of the runaway ruminants?
screengrab by NPR via u/kevin1760/Reddit
Back in March, four or five goats scrambled along the streets of San Francisco and became instantly famous as videos of their runabout were posted on social media. What became of the runaway ruminants?

Ah, what simple times those were. Back in March, before the catastrophic wildfires and record temperatures of summer, before the Wagner insurrection, the plummeting plane, the many indictments in the U.S. ... goats were in the news. Four or five of them (accounts vary) were seen running wildly through the streets of San Francisco. Because of our blog's name, we felt obliged to cover this important story and make the very important point that goats do not fare well on noisy, busy city streets. At the time there were a couple of theories about the escape: Maybe they busted lose from a herd of goats who are hired out to eat weeds. Or maybe they engineered a dramatic exit from a truck bound for the goat slaughterhouse.

I did my best, dear readers. I tried to crack the mystery of the runaway goats.I spoke to several grazing companies — businesses that have a ... staff ... of goats who are rented out to eat weeds on various properties in the San Francisco area.

No one took responsibility for the mid-March escapees.

Here's what Deb Campbell, spokeswoman for San Francisco Animal Care and Control, told me: "I don't think it was conclusive whether they were part of a local company that provides goats for grazing or being transported as meat goats and got loose. I don't think we ever concluded." Either way, she says, the runaway animals were "either ushered back to where they belong or picked up by the people who own them." And presumably they have recovered from their urban trauma.

Because they did look traumatized in the video footage. "Those goats were very upset, they were animals in crisis state," says Genevieve Church, executive director of City Grazing, which sends out groups of goats from their 110 or so ruminants on weed-ingesting jobs in San Francisco.

Church says those escaped goats were not from her herd, but she says there was an escape from a City Grazing group a few weeks later. A human "cut through one of the park department fences and chased our goats out of a grazing areas. Suddenly there were about 40 goats on the hillside, on the street up above Ghirardelli Square on Fisherman's Wharf. The manager grabbed a bale of hay, put it on his shoulders and you can watch those goats following him back up the hill into the pen within 30 minutes. That is what rewards-based training is all about."

She also says the City Grazing goats are raised in a home base in the city of San Francisco so they are acclimated to urban stimuli. Her escapees were very well-mannered, she reports. "They weren't panicked like those goats [in mid-March]. For all the world it looked as if our goats were stopping at a stop sign."

Since the various goat escapes of spring, Campbell reports, "We haven't had any more goats running amok. Knock on wood, they're all around the city doing their duty. What better way to clear brush than to have happy goats getting snacks and getting to places where people can't go. They enjoy their work."

And when I get to write a story about goats, can I just say I enjoy my work too!

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Marc Silver
Marc Silver, who edits NPR's global health blog, has been a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Jewish Times, U.S. News & World Report and National Geographic. He is the author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond and co-author, with his daughter, Maya Silver, of My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice From Real-Life Teens. The NPR story he co-wrote with Rebecca Davis and Viola Kosome -- 'No Sex For Fish' — won a Sigma Delta Chi award for online reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.