Large herd doing park’s dirty work
The Gazette | November 2, 1999
An army of four-legged lawn mowers will spend the next few weeks gnawing at 30 acres of weeds in Bear Creek Regional Park.
“Their niche is to eat the prickly, pokey stuff,” said county park specialist Mike Bonar. When it’s done, the 700 cashmere goats will be fat and happy. And acres of poisonous plant will be gone.
County park officials hope they’ve found a successful alterative to chemical treatments. This herd of small, wiry-haired goats means business, said park manager Barbara Nugent. They’re hungry for hemlock, Russian olive and thistle. They’ll also fertilize the park’s botanical gardens, so make sure to watch your step.
The goats were brought from a Wyoming ranch this weekend and released Monday to do the weeding work for three to four weeks.
Monday morning, the park put 500 goats to work. The remaining 200 will be brought in from a Denver park, where they were eradicating weeds.
The herd will chew through the park’s central area, taking out non-native plants that are typically treated with herbicides.
They’re especially good at chomping through noxious weeds because they have a special enzyme in their saliva that allows them to digest poisonous weeds, Nugent said.
The park has been trying to get rid of noxious weeds, such as the Canada Thistle because they choke out native plants and soak up the soil’s nutrients. “They will eventually take over everything,” Nugent said. “We want to bring the native vegetation back in the parks.”
Border collies and a low voltage electric fence will keep the goats safe and in one place while they are at work, Nugent said. The park plans to graze the goats for about eight hours a day. To keep track of them.. the herd’s owners will camp at the park.
They’re part of Ewe4ic Ecological Services, a weed management company. Using goats in place of chemicals is new, Nugent said. She decided the county needed to try something that was more environmentally friendly. If the experiment goes well, the herd will return next year, she said.
“We can’t keep throwing chemicals and pesticides on the land,” she said. “This way, (the weeds are) taken out naturally.”