Weed-eating goats get going again today | VailDaily.com

Weed-eating goats get going again today

Geraldine Haldner

The Kashmir goats, owned and operated by Lani Lamming of Ewe4ric, a Wyoming-based outfit, will arrive by truck and begin munching their way along the recreation path beginning at Bridge Road in East Vail.

For the next month, the herd will be working its way west, toward Dowd Junction, in an effort to cut down on the spread of noxious weeds.

At night the goats will be penned up and guarded by trained dogs, which also will be keeping watch on the goats during their daytime pursuits.

Goats have become increasingly popular in the West as a non-toxic weapon against annual and perennial noxious weeds. Following the example of other municipalities and neighboring counties, Vail decided last year to hire Ewe4ric to battle Russian thistle and other common noxious weeds. Its far less toxic than herbicides and less labor-intensive than manual weed-plucking. Last year, the goats effectively cleared approximately 18 acres of town-owned land.

“They definitely gnawed everything in their way to the ground,” said Vail’s Public Works Streets and Maintenance Manager Larry Pardee. “They aren’t kidding when they say goats eat anything. We had to try to get them around things couple of times. They’ll eat any plant, shrub, tree – you name it, they eat it.”

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For approximately $5,000 – or $1 per goat per day – the Vail Town Council this spring approved a repeat engagement, despite a disastrous debut last summer when, just hours after the goats had been unloaded south of Interstate 70, an unidentified dog, a Husky, spooked the herd, then caused the death of a $2,500 boarder collie. While containing the herd, the collie ran onto the South Frontage Road and was hit and killed by a vehicle. The driver then left the scene and was never apprehended. The Husky was never caught either.

Two weeks later, however, after the town agreed to an additional week of grazing and an additional $3,500 in compensation for the lost dog, another Husky on the loose jumped a 5-foot fence, killing two goats and injuring two more before bystanders, armed with umbrellas and golf clubs, could contain the dog in a car.

The offending Husky was sentenced to life-on-parole by Vail Municipal Judge Buck Allen with the condition that he be put to sleep if he was caught on the the loose again anywhere in Eagle County.

“Everything that could go wrong went wrong. It was like the “Twilight Zone,'” said Pardee. “The beginning was bad and the end was bad, but the middle 15 days were pretty good.”

In an effort to prevent any repeat goat-dog clashes, the town is asking pet owners to refrain from bringing dogs anywhere near areas where the goats are grazing. Pardee said informational signs along the recreation path will alert path users. Pedestrians and bicyclists and other path users are asked to use caution while passing the herd.

In addition to keeping the goats on the south side of Interstate 70, where natural barriers should contain them, the town also will withhold final payment until all goats are accounted for, Pardee said.

The adjustments are being made in response to concerns expressed by officials of the Colorado Division of Wildlife, who in August last year notified the town that at least nine goats temporarily intermingled with native bighorn sheep. Domestic goats, according to the DOW, pose a threat to native wildlife as possible carriers of disease, as well as competitors for forage.

“Last year we got hit with a few curve balls. This year we have a chance to do this better,” Pardee said.

While dogs and recreation path users should keep a safe distance from the working goats, goat-watching, is encouraged, Pardee said. Last year, the herd quickly became a popular and picturesque subject with amateur photographers, as well as a favorite source of entertainment for adults and children walking along the path.

Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at ghaldner@vaildaily.com.

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