Goats 'mow' Calgary parks in pilot program to control invasive weeds
Shepherd, dogs and horses manage herd at Confluence Park
Dandelions and weeds are no match for these lawn mowers.
More than 100 goats arrived at Confluence Park (West Nose Creek) on Monday to start their new job for the City of Calgary.
For the next two weeks, they'll be chomping down on weeds and thistle as part of a pilot to test goats as a way to manage invasive species in Calgary's parks.
"We have a whole schwack of breeds, from angora and boer to kiko," said Jeannette Hall, the professional herder managing the goats.
Hall, who owns Baaah'd Plant Management and Reclamation, said the herd is targeting about 16 weeds in the park, but will take care of "quite a few more."
"It will make a heck of a difference. They work pretty quick," she told the Calgary Eyeopener on Tuesday.
Goats have been used to manage weeds in other cities before. Amazon even rents out goat grazers.
Goats guarded by horses and dogs
Hall has a few other animals on staff — including horses, one herding dog and three "guardian dogs."
"In the evening we have a Karst shepherd, which is a breed from Europe, and he's kind of our watchdog and our coyote chaser. And then we have a Great Pyrenees and a Maremma," said Hall.
"They're my most valued employees."
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Rain or shine, these goats will munch on weeds for hours over all sorts of terrain.
"It helps us manage weeds in tricky areas, such as along waterways or on steep slopes, where traditional methods are not appropriate," Chris Manderson, urban conservation lead for Calgary Parks, said in a release.
The city also touts goats as an "alternative to pesticide use, their droppings fertilize the soil, and their hooves work the earth helping to till, aerate and condition the ground."
Hall adds they're also an ideal animal for weed control because, unlike other species of livestock, they don't redistribute the invasive species through their feces.
"They actually eat them and their stomach is so acidic, they just destroy the seeds," she said.
Not a petting zoo
While the park will remain open, the city is reminding the public to keep a "respectful distance" from the herd and their handers.
Dogs should also be kept on leashes where the goats are present.
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Calgarians will likely be able to meet the shepherd, goats, dogs and horses at a public meet and greet, which is being planned by the city at the end of the pilot project.
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener