Deaths serve as reminder not to feed grazing goats

June 26, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Issaquah Highlands neighborhood leaders asked residents not to feed the landscaping goats due to arrive in the community soon.

Highlands residents received the information in a communitywide email June 21 because seven goats died last summer after ingesting yard waste. Organizers said the afflicted goats ate yard waste dumped on open spaces in the hillside neighborhood.

The goats, a cheaper and more environmentally conscious option than traditional clearing, eat tall grasses and invasive plant species, but some plants used for ornamental landscaping can harm the animals.

Issaquah Highlands Community Association managers hired a pair of herds — about 400 goats total — to chomp across 12 to 14 acres of difficult-to-reach hillsides and undeveloped land in the neighborhood. The initial batch of goats started to arrive in late June.

If you go

Onlookers can watch — but not feed — goats at work in the Issaquah Highlands on the area between 24th Avenue Northeast and 25th Avenue Northeast south of The Enclave condominiums; land east of the Magnolia Park neighborhood; a tract south of Northeast Mulberry Street; and land west of Vista Park. If time permits, goats could also work in the Northeast Davis Loop neighborhood.

On the Web

Cornell University’s Department of Animal Science offers a list of plants toxic to goats at www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/goatlist.html.

Managers expect a busy — and nutrition-packed — summer for the goats due to the rain-soaked spring and accompanying growth of grasses, not to mention Scotch broom, Himalayan blackberry and other invasive plant species. The goats’ droppings, in turn, fertilize the cleared land.

Wranglers move the goats among tracts based on feeding rates and plant growth.

The homeowners association turned to ruminants in 2009 to landscape areas steep for human crews to reach safely or inexpensively. Since the initial foray into ruminant-powered landscaping, the goats turned into a summer staple in the community.

In October 2010, Comedy Central funnyman Stephen Colbert shined a spotlight on goats for a message about unemployment.

Colbert cast the goats as illegal helpers “gobbling up our jobs” and causing unemployment to rise.

Ruminants featured on “The Colbert Report” came from Vashon Island-based Rent-a-Ruminant. The goats that died last year came from another herd and did not appear in the Comedy Central segment.

For the Comedy Central piece, the goats returned for filming after the traditional landscaping period, and the highlands received some no-cost landscaping as a result.

Rent-a-Ruminant goats also gained notoriety as stars in PEMCO Insurance’s “Goat Renter Guy” spot and a “Nightline” segment.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.
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