Southern California goats suffer hunger

The goats are off duty.

A record lack of rainfall in Southern California has left brush and grasses so dry they're even unappetizing to the grazing animals.

Fire officials say it's the first time in years they can't use goats to help clear hillsides to prevent brush fires.

"There's not enough vegetation to support the goats," said Frank Vidales, assistant chief at the Los Angeles County Fire Department's forestry division.

Goats are used by many fire agencies to eat through underbrush. They're especially helpful in areas where controlled burns are too risky or terrain is too difficult for humans to navigate.

But the region has had so little rain that goats wouldn't get much nourishment from brittle brush.

"The goats can't survive on it," said Scott Franklin, a vegetation management adviser for the Big Rock community in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Some goat herders, however, said the animals can still munch on brittle brush as long as they receive protein supplements.

The goats prefer their snacks to be fairly dry, said Sarah Bunten, who said her herd of 300 goats helped clear brush in Claremont two weeks ago.