Goats return to McHugh Bluff to tackle weeds, help with habitat restoration
A herd of around 200 goats are set to return to McHugh Bluff this summer, to help control weeds and support habitat restoration work happening in the area.
“This is the second year we’ve used goats at McHugh Bluff,” says Chris Manderson, urban conservation lead for Calgary Parks. “We’ve had great success in using the goats to help manage invasive weeds like Canada thistle, yellow clematis and creeping bellflower, without affecting the native plants we want to keep. This has allowed more native vegetation to grow in this area, which encourages healthy wildlife habitat and biodiversity.”
Targeted grazing using goats is an environmentally-friendly and effective way to manage invasive weeds, as an alternative to herbicides.
The City is naturalizing this area as part of the Council-approved Biodiversity Strategic Plan which aims to restore 20 per cent of Calgary's open space by 2025.
Goats have other added benefits, in addition to controlling weeds.
“Their droppings act as fertilizer and their hooves help till and aerate the soil,” says Manderson. “And unlike other types of livestock goats don’t redistribute the invasive species through their feces, as the acidity in their stomachs destroys the seeds.”
Goats also have the advantage of being able to work on steep slopes that are difficult for crews to reach, like McHugh Bluff.
On average, targeted grazing costs are comparable or potentially more economical than conventional herbicide use.
The McHugh Bluff herd will be monitored and managed by a team of professional shepherds and highly trained herding dogs and horses.
If you’re out enjoying the park this summer, The City asks you to help reduce stress on the goats and let them do their job by following these safety tips:
- The goats are here to work, so we ask that you give the shepherd and her animals space to do their job safely.
- Keeping a respectful distance is good for the health of the herd.
- Obey any signage, fencing and closures.
- Keep pets on-leash and away from the goats. There will be herding dogs working off-leash, who are trained to protect the goats and can become protective of the herd. There will also be two horses with the herd.
- Don’t approach or pet the goats. The best place to view the goats is from a short distance away or they can be viewed in their pen at their camp at the east end of the park.
- Don’t feed the goats. They will have plenty of noxious weeds and other vegetation to munch on.
For more information on habitat restoration projects and how they benefit our urban environment, visit calgary.ca/habitatrestoration.
For more information on how goat herds help with naturalization, visit calgary.ca/goats.