The goats are back in town, munching their way through invasive weeds in Alexander Wilderness and Indian Battle parks.
Two hundred baby and mama goats were out in full force at Alexander Wilderness park Thursday, eating a field of invasive leafy spurge weeds.
“We can target graze and train them to eat different things that we want them to eat,” said Rob Finck, the owner of Creekside Goat company, which supplies the goats.
“So once we get them hooked on something and they start looking for it, the target graze they’ll seek out, and right now the leafy spurge is one of their favourite things to eat.”
Finck says the goats will spend 12 hours a day grazing the weeds, with a lunch break in between, lasting three to four hours.
Parks Natural Resources coordinator for the city, Jackie Cardinal, says using the animals is a safer option for both the environment and public.
“We’re really close to the river, we’re on the flood plain, we don’t like to use chemicals on our nature reserve parks or on the flood plains in general, unless we really, really have to,” Cardinal said.
According to the city, this approach to managing the natural landscape is working successfully, with weeds coming in at half of what they were last year.
“Our goal is to take the seeds before they set,” Finck said.
“So, as the flower comes and they go to seed, if they can never produce new seeds, we aim to knock them back… We’ll hit early and hope to come back in six weeks and do it again,” he added.
The herd will later be moved to Indian Battle Park to continue munching invasive weeds such as leafy spurge, wormwood, thistle, Crested Wheat Grass and brome grasses.
Finck also says his company has a six-week contract with the city.
However, finding goat herders is not an easy task. The goat herder says they’re always on the lookout for someone who can commit to the job.
“We’re always interested in just a willing attitude to come out and live in a camp and be gone for… well, I mean, they’re there for 24 hours a day for four, five months,” he said.
Finck’s team also trains dogs to move and protect the goats from predators.
Residents are reminded to not pet the herd dogs or goats while they are working.