Goats to keep chomping until Nov. 16

       A herd of 800 goats continued to feast on the 19 acres around the Bear Creek Garden this week.

Rylan Camacho, a fifth-grader at Midland Elementary School, joins fellow students in offering apples and carrots to the weed-eating goats at Bear Creek Park Nov. 6. He was there with other students, staff and parents from his school to check out the animals, who are scheduled to finish their job and leave town Nov. 16.
Lucia Pelletier photo

       Brought in to help control noxious weeds, the herd from Wyoming will be in town until Tuesday, Nov. 16, according to Donny Benz, who is helping his mother, herd owner Lani Malmberg, with the contract. By that time, the goats will have fed on the entire acreage, he said.

One of the 800 goats in the herd takes a moment to study a human holding a blocky metal object to his face.
Westside Pioneer photo

       “It's been great,” he said of the visit, “95 percent public relations and 5 percent herding, but educating the public is our main purpose.”
       Even though goats eat grass along with weeds, they are helpful because they fertilize the ground, break it up with their hooves and even detoxify weeds in some cases with the enzymes in their saliva. As a result, the soil is healthier from their visit, and healthier soil is better at resisting weeds, Benz said.
       “The goat is the perfect animal for the job,” he said.
       The herd's visit was funded with $6,000 raised by the Bear Creek Garden Association, which has an agreement with the county that lets the association naturally weed the 19-acre buffer area around its garden. The county sprays and/or mows the rest of its open park land.
       Visitors in steady streams have been coming out to view the goats. Students from Midland Elementary have visited a few times since the goats first arrived Nov. 2. “Kindergarten kiddos, siblings, parents and even a few grandparents came together and had such fun on our 'beyond the normal school week' field trip,” said Lucia Pelletier, one of the school's kindergarten teachers. “We watched some of the goats nibble leaves high up in some of the trees. We watched the 4 terrifically trained dogs herd the goats towards us so the kiddos could feed them carrots, and then herd the goats to another section of the garden area to clear the noxious feeds. What a great 'hands-on' learning experience...even if some of us did end up with a bit of goat “slobber” on our finger tips!”

Donny Benz straightens a part of the temporary goat fence that had fallen down.
Westside Pioneer photo

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