The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 21, 2004


Sheep will return to nip weeds in the bud

Carlisle's favorite summer visitors are on their way to Towle Field to reassure us townies that this is still a pastoral community. Thus Carlisle Conservation Commission (ConsCom) members were all smiles May 13, as they signed the requisite permit for Sheepscape herder David Nashida to unload his buckthorn-hungry flock on the Westford Street conservation land. Nashida explained that herd-owner Bill Fosher of Surrey, New Hampshire, is this year tweaking his overall strategy for finishing off the woody invasives which, along with poison ivy, once threatened to overrun the entire field. Over the past three years the company has used a flock of up to 300 sheep to carry out two intensive grazing periods per summer at Towle and the Spencer Brook Reservation. One look at the lush, green contours at Towle Field indicates the unquestionable, short-run success of the experiment. However, closer examination of the targeted vegetation has disclosed that some of the stubborn plants are still attempting to leaf out. This has led Fosher and his local clients, the non-profit Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF) and the Minuteman National Historical Park, to undertake a final push for eradication.

Sheepscape will keep a reduced flock of 100 wooly quadrupeds on the job all summer at Towle, 12 at Spencer Brook and a second large group at two sites in Minuteman Park. At Towle the beasties will start by munching their way around the outer rim of the field, repeating the trip at least six times over the course of the summer, literally "nipping in the bud" any attempt at recovery.

Grazing on Towle's grassy center area will have to wait until the August to October timeframe in deference to the bobolink families that nest there each year. Although the population of avian songsters has declined in recent years, ConsCom member Tom Brownrigg reported seeing two, and possibly three, males plus two females in the nesting area this week.

Since Towle Field is a popular site for walking the family dog, Brownrigg and his ConsCom colleagues ask that owners keep their pets on the outer paths, well away from the nesting area, over the next two months. They are also reminded that the sheep are protected within their fence by a large, well-trained guard dog who takes his job seriously.

CCF President Art Milliken has told the Mosquito that his organization's tab for participating in this year's phase of the grazing experiment is $20,000. There is approximately $2,000 left from last year's sheep-funding drive; ConsCom is contributing $3,785 from a federal Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program grant, and CCF plans to repeat a popular herding demonstration this fall as a prelude to a final request for private support.

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito