The Goats are baa-ck: Goat Grazing begins in Nose Hill Park
Visitors to Nose Hill Park will soon get a glimpse of a grazing goat herd at work. A herd of 260 goats will graze in the 40-hectare Rubbing Stone Hill natural parkland zone of Nose Hill for 30 days, beginning Oct. 14, 2022, when most vegetation has entered dormancy. This multi-year grazing program aims to reduce invasive species and the volume of dead vegetation, while opening areas within the grassland for native flowering plant species to thrive.
Since 2016, The City has had great success in using goats to help manage invasive weeds like Canada thistle. The City is committed to controlling weeds and pests in a safe and environmentally responsible manner, and when possible, will use natural control methods like grazing. Targeted grazing supports habitat restoration work by allowing native vegetation to grow, which encourages healthy wildlife habitat and improves biodiversity. Further, goat droppings fertilize the soil, and their hooves work the earth, helping to till, aerate and condition the ground.
“Grazing has historically been an important part of the ecology of Nose Hill and has played a critical role in maintaining the native grassland species diversity,” said Parks Ecologist, Andrew Phelps. “Introducing targeted grazing back to the [Nose] Hill will help remove dead vegetation and keep the competitive species in check. The goats are essentially opening new ‘real estate’ for native species to colonize and this encourages healthy wildlife habitat and biodiversity on the [Nose] Hill.”
The City is naturalizing this area of Nose Hill as part of the Council-approved Biodiversity Strategic Plan which aims to restore 20 per cent of Calgary's open space by 2025.
Historically, the grazing of herbivores including bison, elk and cattle, helped maintain the natural ecosystem of this area. The absence of grazing has led to the loss of normal ecosystem control mechanisms that would have promoted empty niches for many native plants species to thrive.
The goat herd will be monitored and managed by a professional shepherd and highly trained herding dogs which will be on site 24/7. To ensure safety of the herd livestock and the public, physical interaction between the animals and the public is not permitted.
Program Ambassadors will be on site during specific days and times to educate the public on the value of targeted grazing.
For more information on how goat herds help with naturalization, and for the on-site Program Ambassador schedule, please visit calgary.ca/goats.
For more information on habitat restoration projects and how they benefit our urban environment, visit calgary.ca/habitatrestoration.