SPOKANE, Wash. — Nearly 200 goats will soon be on the job to help reduce wildfire risk at three of Spokane's natural park lands.
According to a press release from Spokane Parks and Recreation, the program is aimed at lessening fire risk in natural areas by reducing brush and tree sapling density. The goats will be at Meadowglen Park on Friday, May 14, Minnehaha Park from May 18-23 and the South Hill Bluff and Hangman Park from May 23-29. A map of parks in Spokane is available online.
Friends of the Bluff, a group of community volunteers, partnered with Avista to fund the goats' grazing along the bluff and Hangman Park. Avista donated $2,500 to fund half of the project and the Friends of the Bluff are holding an Adopt-a-Goat fundraiser to match Avista’s contribution.
“This is an economically and ecologically friendly way to manage brush density in some of our natural areas,” Parks and Recreation director Garrett Jones said. “We are grateful to our partners for this collaboration, and are planning another round of grazing this fall.”
The goats are provided by Healing Hooves from Cloverdale Ranch, Inc. out of Edwall, Washington. They are contained to the desired areas through a portable electric fence and are accompanied by a trained guard dog to protect them from predators, according to Parks and Recreation. Owners Craig Madsen and Sue Lani will also accompany the goats to make sure they stay within the fence, have water and are moved as they finish treating each area.
Members of the public can come out to see the herd and ask questions about the projects or goats, but Madsen said visitors should avoid feeding the goats, and be aware that the guard dog will growl or bark at any dogs that are nearby. The guard dog will be most active at night, so anyone living close to one of the three parks may hear barking on occasion, Parks and Recreation said.
"Watch out for the fence because it is electric and you also don't want to feed the goats because they're out working," Madsen said. "You don't want them along the fence looking for a handout. They want to be out their working and doing their job."
This isn't the first time Spokane and other communities in Washington state have used goats as a method of wildfire prevention.
Healing Hooves also deployed approximately 200 goats into the Hangman Park area for six days in October 2020 to chew away at weedy vegetation.
A Federal Emergency Management Agency grant funded the rental of goats to clear flammable brush around Wenatchee in 2019.
This marked the first time Chelan County Fire District 1 rented the animals from a goat herder in Ephrata, Washington.