By Cliff Thompson | Vail Daily | August 21, 2001
In a collision of old and new West, weed-eating Kashmir goats and a pet dog met in a bloody 10-minute incident in East Vail Saturday evening that left two goats dead, two injured and 150 stampeding toward a busy interstate.
Quick action by bystanders prevented the goats from scrambling onto the interstate and causing a larger problem.
It is the same place and the second time in a month that an unleashed dog has attacked the goats in East Vail. This attack follows an incident in which a prized $2,500 goat-herding dog was killed by a car as the dog worked to contain a stampeding flock of 700 goats on the South Frontage Road. The driver of that vehicle left the scene without stopping, and the dog provoking the stampede was not caught. The animal involved in the first attack was also believed to be a husky.
In Saturday’s incident, a black husky estimated at 60 pounds leaped a 5-foot metal panel fence that confined the goats at the parking lot for the bike path in East Vail. Appalled witnesses watched terrified goats spilling from the enclosure with the dog in pursuit along the South Frontage Road.
The dog killed two goats and injured two more before bystanders, armed with a golf club and an umbrella, separated the dog from the goats.
The dog was confined in a vehicle while authorities were summoned. The goats were contained and returned to their enclosure.
At one point, up to 15 people assisted in herding the goats by forming a human wall to keep them from the nearby interstate.
“It was unbelievable.,” said Kurt Desautels of Denver, who was driving from Vail to East Vail and saw panicking goats milling around. “This dog attacked the goats, biting them on the hind quarters. It must have bitten a dozen while I watched. We stopped the dog once, but it went back. It just had the blood lust. The goats were just jumping over one another trying to get away. They were really freaking out.”
Desautels said his wife, Jeannie, stopped the dog while other people rounded up the goats.
“This dog was friendly as could be and well-trained. It just lost it,” he said. “It was barking and howling while chasing them. It was a weird scene.”
Eagle County’s animal control officers issued a ticket to Scott Sailer of Vail for owning an animal that was threatening livestock. The ticket carries a mandatory municipal court appearance and up to a $300 fine, plus restitution.
The town’s ordinance also allows for animals pursuing livestock or wildlife to be immediately destroyed, at the discretion of the ticketing officer.
Vail’s leash law requires dogs in Vail Village, Lionshead and West Vail to be leashed at all times. In other areas of town, the dogs must be under control and within 10 feet of their handlers at all times.
Dana Ferguson of Ewe4ic, the company that owns the goats, said the attack happened shortly after she had made sure the goats were secure within the pen. She was gone for 30 minutes while she retrieved a camper trailer for transport to a new grazing commitment the next day in Wyoming. She was alerted by cyclists on the bike path that her goats were loose.
“It was a mess that didn’t need to happen,” she said. “I was surprised that bystanders were brave enough to jump in and get this husky out of there when he was in the killing mode. I hope the people who helped know how much we appreciate it.” She said the panicked goats had beat metal panels and posts of their pen.
“The guy who owned the dog was really rude to me,” she said.
“He didn’t say he was sorry. He said he didn’t like the goats stinking up the bike path and that that they didn’t need to be here.”
Sailer could not be reached for comment.
Ferguson said one of the injured goats had a broken leg and the other had a large gash from a bite on its. The two dead goats died from necks broken by bites, Ferguson said. The carcasses of the goats are being used as evidence by Eagle County Animal Control officers.
The first incident, in which the trained border collie died, prompted a group of church women from the Minturn Presbyterian Parish last week to offer a replacement border collie from the Humane Society shelter to the owner of the goat herd. That offer was politely refused because a well-trained dog was needed to help control the goats in high-traffic areas.
Ewe4ic is an Alpine, Wyo.-based grazing operation providing biological control of thistles and other noxious weeds that operates year-round in the western United States.
The town decided to use the goats to control weeds after citizen complaints about the town’s use of herbicide. The goats cost $1 per day per goat, or about $10,000 total, said town Community Relations Director Suzanne Silverthorn.
The goats eat up to two pounds of forage a day, and their foraging is intensified in a given area by containing the herd in a small portable electric fence enclosing an acre and a half at a time. The goats typically forage along public right of ways, such as the Vail bike path between Vail and East Vail.
In Vail and elsewhere, said Dana Ferguson of Ewe4ic, pet dogs have proven the primary predator of the Kashmir goats, which cost up $300 to $500 a piece to replace. In an incident last year near Denver, 19 goats were killed by a dog, she said.
Of the latest incident in Vail, she said, “It could have cost us the whole herd. Fortunately, no one was hurt.”
The incident Saturday happened on the final day in Vail for the goat herding operation. The herders and goats left Sunday morning for the Cheyenne, Wyo., area.