RIDGWAY – The goats are coming next week, or perhaps the week after.
Ridgway’s latest attempt to deal with noxious weeds on town properties through biological, rather than chemical, controls gets its tryout soon, according to Town Manager Jen Coates.
Following guidelines in the town’s Integrated Weed Management Plan, a herd of goats from Dancing Kids Ranch in Montrose will be loosed, very carefully and according to a detailed schedule, on some of the town’s toughest weed problems.
In Week One of what contractors and County Weed Manager Ron Mabry estimate will be seven treatments through the summer, the goats, and their herders, Jim and Rebecca Herberg, will attack the athletic fields at the south edge of town (approximately two acres; 15 goats for five days), the water treatment plant above town (two acres; 15 goats for five days), and the wastewater plant in town (one acre; six goats for five days).
In Week Two, they will treat Lake Otonawanda (three acres; 20 goats for three days) and Rollins Park and Uncompahgre River banks (5.5 acres; 16 goats for three days and 36 goats for two days).
The goats take the third week of each cycle off, going home to Happy Canyon before being trucked back to work for the next treatment cycle. Multiple cycles will insure the weeds do not go to seed.
According to the agreement with the Herbergs’ company, Wild West Range Reclamation, the fee for the work will come to $2.30 per goat-day. The schedule anticipates a total of 2,250 goat-days for a total compensation of $5,796. Coates said this week that Mabry had secured “some state grant funds” for the project. The Town of Ridgway and Ouray County “will split the balance,” she said.
Among the town’s responsibilities is to provide a place for the goats to overnight while they are working. Coates said that “someone local” had agreed to provide the night quarters.
The herders will set up their own electric fencing to keep the goats on task in the prescribed areas. The town will double-fence the perimeter of each area to protect the public from walking inadvertently into the electric fences. The town is also responsible for ensuring potable water for the goats at the treatment areas and at the night quarters.
The Herbergs’ proposal contains this interesting paragraph: “Although goats are considered domestic animals, and are relatively gentle and shy, they can be provoked. They are particularly wary of strange dogs, and community awareness of the operation and [of precautions needed] to prevent unwanted interaction between the goats and strange animals should be taken.
“While the general public is invited to see and view the goats, entering their enclosure, chasing or petting them should be discouraged. Since the goats’ diet is controlled to encourage consumption of weeds, people should be advised not to feed the goats, although the goats may ask.”
The contractors will conduct a weed density survey of the particular weed targeted at each area at the start and again at the completion of each treatment. They will also photo- document the areas at the start and completion of each treatment.
Coates said that the goat/weed project, while experimental, is expected to continue beyond this year, possibly for three years or more, as weed populations are brought under control.