For the next week or so, Police Point Park will be home to the city of Medicine Hat, Alta.’s newest bed and breakfast.
The only catch is that you need to be a goat to stay and eat.
The park is hosting around 200 goats with the goal of fighting leafy spurge, an invasive weed that is common in the area.
“This is a weed control method called target browsing,” said city parks technician Keziah Lesko-Gosselin. “This is a really common weed and goats love to eat it.
“This is the most natural way you can control weeds.”
The city has contracted the services of Creekside Goats, which is based out of Magrath., to take care of the park’s weeds. Owner Robert Finck says the goats love their job.
“Leafy spurge is high in protein,” he said. “It has a milky substance that burns the mouths of most animals, but goats love it.
“Once they get a taste of it, that’s all they want.”
The goats will be tackling different areas in Police Point Park over the course of 7-10 days. Finck says the animals are efficient as can be.
“When goats eat seeds, they don’t pass them,” he said. “Goats grind the seeds up in their stomachs and that means they don’t spread them.
“God made one animal capable of eating rough, nasty, tough forage and eliminate it – goats were made for this.”
Lesko-Gosselin says there are environmental benefits to this method of getting rid of weeds.
“This is great for soil conditions, really environmentally friendly and it’s one of the most long-term effective ways of dealing with these weeds,” said Lesko-Gosselin. “Leafy spurge is really hard to control, but the goats really do a number on it.
“The goats can also easily get to areas humans struggle to get to.”
Lesko-Gosselin says it is important to take care of the weed.
“It’s really aggressive and it takes over where our native vegetation could take over,” she said. “It spreads through seed dispersal and underground as well – it’s just really undesirable.”
A goat climbs a rock while grazing for leafy spurge at Police Point Park.
This is the first time the city has brought goats in to fight the weeds. Herd owner Robert Finck says target browsing is becoming popular in Alberta.
“We’re in a number of cities doing this type of work,” he said. “The goats love this, the city will love this and people coming down love seeing the goats.
“It’s a win-win for everyone.”