Calgary

Goats and beetles team up to tackle noxious weed in southern Alberta

Insects and goats may seem like an odd pairing, but Ducks Unlimited is banking on the duo to tackle the spread of an invasive plant at a wetlands near High River, Alta.

Using goat/beetle tag team is a first for Ducks Unlimited Canada

A herd of goats from BAAH'D Plant Management and Reclamation will team up with thousands of flea beetles this summer to tackle leafy spurge at the Frank Lake wetlands area. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Insects and goats may seem like an odd pairing, but Ducks Unlimited is banking on the duo to tackle the spread of an invasive plant at a wetlands near High River, Alta.

The organization hopes the tag team can stop leafy spurge — a noxious weed that can poison livestock and cut down crop yields.

BAAH'D Plant Management and Reclamation has a herd of goats ready to feast on leafy spurge this summer at the Frank Lake wetlands area. The thousands of flea beetles needed to eat the roots will be supplied by Agriculture Canada

"It's kind of our recommendation, especially leafy spurge, that we team up with the beetle," said BAAH'D owner Jeanette Hall. "It's actually the grub of the beetle that is eating root, and then the goats come in and manage the top part of the plant."

Hall said the weed is really aggressive, out-competing native plants and causing problems across the country.

While the goat/beetle strategy has been used against leafy spurge before, it's a first for Duck Unlimited Canada, said Ashley Rawluk, a conservation specialist with the organization.

Leafy spurge is a noxious weed that contains a milky latex liquid. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

In the past, they've tried herbicides but decided this year to look to other options.

"We're trying an alternative approach. Last year we released some goats to help manage the leafy spurge through targeted grazing and we're going to complement that this year by releasing flea beetles, which are specific to the leafy spurge. And they also slow the growth and spread of it," she said.

Ducks Unlimited plans to track the results at Frank Lake over the next five years. Rawluk said if it proves successful, the organization will look to use the strategy at other sites across the country.

If the project is a success, Ducks Unlimited will try it in other locations. (Ducks Unlimited Canada)

With files from Dave Gilson

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