If you think you see goats wandering around in the Issaquah Highlands, no, you’re not hallucinating.
A total of 360 goats, from two separate herds, have been grazing in the Highlands since the last week of June. The program, which was the brainchild of Issaquah Highlands Landscape Manager Russ Ayers, started in 2009. Ayers said he and his wife got the idea of using goats to control the weeds and grass on steep slopes after observing the practice in the Ukraine.
“It took awhile for people to listen to me,” Ayers said.
One herd, Rent-a-Ruminant, from Vashon Island, consists of 120 goats, while a herd of 240 from Edwall, Wash., are called Healing Hooves.
Ayers said he found the herds through a group called grazing providers.
“Generally they are on steep slopes that are difficult to get to or inaccessible,” Ayers said.
He said they munch down the grasses that are planted for erosion control.
Not only does it keep the landscape looking trim, but also reduces fuel for brush fires, Ayers said.
The goats love to eat weeds, brush and small trees. They also go after invasive species such a blackberries and Scot’s Broom, an invasive flowering shrub that grows commonly throughout the Puget Sound region that destabilizes slopes.
Ayers said the goats will actually team up on trees. Once they take one down, they go after it until it’s gone.
“It’s a hoot to watch them,” he said.
The Healing Hooves had to go back to Edwall on Wednesday, but the other herd will remain a while longer.
The goats are herded to another location in the Issaquah Highlands.