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Goats help with weed control, fire prevention in the Basin

Goats Grazing in Snyderville Basin Willow Creek area.PNG
Snyderville Basin Recreation District
Goats in Willow Creek manage noxious weeds, vegetation management and wildfire management.

Grazing goats control vegetation and weeds, and reduce wildfire risk in the Willow Creek area.

About 300 goats are nibbling the plants in the fields north of Willow Creek Park in the Snyderville Basin this week. Grazing is a natural way to remove weedy, invasive plants and restore wild grasses, says Basin Recreation Open Space Specialist Seychelle Marcus.

The goats also create defensible spaces and prevent wildfire fuels from becoming dangerous to populated areas like the Willow Creek and Silver Springs neighborhoods.

Marcus said it's a much more natural way to manage the land than herbicides.

She said the goats’ four-chamber stomachs allow them to digest more than most other grazing animals.
"They can eat most any broadleaf plant because they are able to do that and metabolize the seeds and make them not viable," Marcus said. They can eat thistle head, goat head, Morning Glory, White Top-a bunch of different invasives."                

Kamas-based Four Leaf Ranch contracts its goats to the Snyderville Basin Recreation District. Targeted grazing methods help manage the herd and move them to other sections, so no areas are overgrazed.

Goats Grazing in Snyderville Basin with bikers.PNG
Snyderville Basin Recreation District
Goats grazing in the Snyderville Basin with Bikers on the Willow Creek trail.

"The herders also have working dogs on site in order to herd the goats throughout the property," Marcus said. "You know if, if goats wander away from the herd, they'll herd them back into the spots that they're targeting that has the most invasive species on them. They're also using electric fences that help keep the goat in each plot as they move throughout the property.”

There are informational signs and guard dogs on site as well. Anyone using the open space must keep their pets away from the goats. So, Marcus said, all dogs must be leashed while the goats are there. She said the herd would be there through the end of August.

Two goat herders are on-site day and night to monitor the animals and manage the grazing.

KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.