Goats graze, till McHugh Bluff in Calgary as part of naturalization project

Click to play video: 'From the country to the city: Goats invade a park in Calgary’s Crescent Heights to take on weeds'
From the country to the city: Goats invade a park in Calgary’s Crescent Heights to take on weeds
The City of Calgary has expanded a pilot project that uses goats to get rid of invasive weeds in the inner city. McHugh Bluff will be home to a herd of goats over the next two weeks as part of a naturalization project. Deb Matejicka reports – Jul 30, 2018

For the first time since a pilot project launched two years ago, target grazing has made its way into the inner city.

About 130 goats can currently be seen munching their way through the weeds at McHugh Bluff alongside Memorial Drive. Chris Manderson, City Parks Urban Conservation lead, explained the goats have been brought to the area in the community of Crescent Heights as part of a naturalization project.

“The reason the goats are here is they’re kind of that first wave,” Manderson said. “Graze out some of the weeds for us and help get the site prepared for us for re-naturalizing it.”

READ MORE: Edmonton goats pilot project back at Rundle Park

In addition to knocking down the weeds, the goats also help fertilize the ground through their droppings.  Their hooves till the earth, aerating and conditioning it, which in turn prepares it for the next phase of the project — the seeding of native plants.

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The move to restore the area to a more natural state has been applauded by local group, Friends of McHugh Bluff, which acts as an environmental steward of sorts for the area.

Wayne Wegner is a member of Friends and says target grazing has been on their radar since it was first introduced in the city as a pilot project back in 2016.

“Three years ago they put it in Confluence Park and we were thinking McHugh Bluff, we have to get McHugh Bluff in there and what they did is they changed the by-law last year in August to allow livestock into the inner city which they hadn’t done before,” said Wegner, who is also known as the Weed Warrior within the community. “So the City of Calgary only can do that.  You can’t put a goat in your back yard right now, but they can use them on city-owned property which means they can go into a natural area like this and clear them.”

READ MORE: Meet Edmonton’s weed-eating goats at Rundle Park

On average, target grazing costs about $500 less per hectare than using a traditional chemical herbicide.

“The things that we balance when we do that is environmental impact.  If we’re not spraying herbicides, that’s a win,” said Manderson.

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That environmental impact is not lost on Shepherd Cailey Chase who used to use chemical herbicides.

“I sprayed herbicides for five years and that took people away from the land.”

“So we got the goats involved and that’s where the people element comes in, bringing people back to the land,” said Chase.

A team of shepherds, horses and dogs will be working with the goats in the area until August 16th.

Anyone interested in learning more about the goats, target grazing and the naturalization initiative are invited to join city officials August 2nd at McHugh Bluff for an information session between 11 am and 2 pm.

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