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For a brief moment in time, there was peace in the valley at the Minnesota statehouse.

Nearly 200 goats and sheep fanned out and munched on grasses on a sunny hillside across the street from the Capitol building Thursday and Friday, a strikingly pastoral scene in a place better known for political gridlock.

Government workers passing by stopped in their tracks and pulled out their phones to take video. Politicians emerged from their offices to snap selfies. Cars slowed to a snail's pace and passengers rolled down windows to ask the obvious question: "Are those ... goats?"

"People really like it," said Audrey Lomax, grazing program manager for Minnesota Native Landscapes, who was watching over the flock Friday. "It's the novelty of having animals in the city, really being that contrast to what we think of as modern life."

The roughly 60 goats and 120 sheep perched on the hillside for hours, lunching on tall plants and completely unaware of the fuss they were causing. The situation was also unusual for Lomax and other Minnesota Native Landscapes employees, who typically deploy their flock of Katahdin sheep to graze in solar-panel fields far outside the city.

The Spanish goats like to jump on the solar panels, she said, so their usual gig is clearing invasive buckthorn shrub from deciduous forests.

But the state hired the company and its sheep and goats to clear dead plants and tall grasses that have accumulated on the hillside across from the Capitol and in Cass Gilbert Memorial Park.

In nature, fire often serves the ecological purpose of clearing out dead plants and making way for new seeds to germinate. But a controlled burn on the hillside across the street from the Capitol would have caused even more commotion than the goats, said Lomax.

And animals have been doing this work for thousands of years.

"Their little niche within the whole system is becoming more clear to people," she said. "We removed animals from the land for so long. Now we are trying to find ways to pair our modern world with this old function that's really important."

The hungry workers were finishing their task Friday evening. A few border collies will help round them up to head to their next job.

Their work will make way for Minnesota Native Landscapes to return in the spring, planting seed to restore native prairie grasses at the Capitol.