Saturday, August 20, 2016
BY BLAKE URSCH | PHOTOS BY SARAH HOFFMAN | THE WORLD-HERALD
ON SAN CLEMENTE ISLAND OFF THE COAST OF CALIFORNIA, A HERD OF GOATS ONCE LIVED AS GOATS DO.
Chad Wegener takes a break from chores at Willow Valley Farms in Gretna.
They roamed the island’s rocky canyons in herds, mating and multiplying.
But the goats weren’t native to the island, and the more their numbers grew, the more they threatened wildlife that was. So in 1985 the U.S. Navy, which owned the island, concocted a plan: Send up a helicopter, a man and a shotgun to eliminate the thousands of goats. A last-minute rescue mission by an animal rights group spared their lives.
And now, decades later, one could argue that the San Clementes are mostly a Nebraska goat. Of the little more than 700 living today, about 200 live on a small farm in Gretna.
There, John Carroll, 51, and Chad Wegener, 42, care for the largest herd of San Clemente Island goats in the world. Since 2008 the couple have owned and operated Willow Valley Farms. In a way, the farm serves as an ark for the breed, which is now considered critically endangered by livestock conservation groups.
Caring of the goats is a daily challenge. For Carroll, a registered nurse and medical malpractice attorney, and Wegener, a pharmaceutical representative, home means chores. At the end of the day they ditch their suits for mudded boots and straw hats. Days are long. Nights are late.
It’s a struggle, too, for the San Clementes as a whole. People like Carroll and Wegener, along with heritage livestock activists, are still working to find a niche for the San Clemente goat — a reason for them to be bred and raised. A reason to save the breed.