Hundreds of weed-eating goats returned Sunday to Bear Creek Regional Park while their fans stood guard reminding dog owners to keep their pets on a leash.
“They’re doing their job, they’re doing their work,” said Donny Benz, co-owner of Cheyenne, Wyoming-based Goat Green, which, for the past 19 years, has supplied the goats to help keep a community garden chemical-free. “They don’t come to your work and harass you, so you don’t need to harass them doing their work.”
The herd of 420 cashmere goats will stay at Bear Creek for 10 days. They eat for a few hours and rest throughout the day before they’re moved to a 2-acre garden at night and provide organic fertilizer.
The program is funded by the Bear Creek Garden Association and aims to eliminate the purchase of expensive chemicals. The association raises between $7,000 and $10,000 a year to pay for the goats’ services.
“If you couldn’t do this, we have to spray,” said Karen Stith, a board member of Bear Creek Garden Association. “Spraying chemical that kills plants is not what you want to do around an organic garden. People want chemical-free food.”
Goats are nature’s own weed-whackers. They’ll eat almost any vegetation and can digest even plants with stickers and thorns. Not even poison ivy slows them down. The only thing that’s deterred them so far is dogs.
Across the street is a fenced, 25-acre dog park, where dogs can run freely, and, in the past, loose dogs have attacked and chased the goats.
In November 2015, the goats’ owners removed the herd after three days because loose and aggressive dogs became a nuisance.
Benz said there hasn’t been much of an issue in the past couple of years except for dog owners who don’t like being told to put their dogs on a leash. “Most people ask if it’s bears or mountain lions, but our biggest predator is dogs off-leash,” he added.
The herd travels across the country to do weed-control work. Wherever the goats go, they’re bound to attract a crowd of children and adults who take pictures of a not-so-typical sight.
To help keep things calm, 24 gardeners and a group of equestrian riders hit the trail Sunday to remind visitors to keep their dogs nearby and not interfere with the goats.
“It’s been much, much better but it’s a continuing education of the importance of keeping the dogs under control, preferably on a leash,” Stith said.