- Associated Press - Sunday, May 18, 2014

COEUR d’ALENE, Idaho (AP) - Two hundred goats were unleashed on a brush-buffet on the west side of Tubbs Hill Friday.

The animals, from Healing Hooves vegetation management, are providing fire protection by eating up so-called “ladder” fuels at the popular park.

“Tubbs Hill in particular is the most-used park - open space - in North Idaho,” said Coeur d’Alene Fire Department Deputy Chief Glenn Lauper. “So the chances of having a human-caused fire on Tubbs Hill (are) much greater than other open spaces.”

Lauper said removing ladder fuels helps prevent a ground-vegetation fire from exploding into a stand-replacing fire with fire jumping from treetop to treetop.

“It takes us around 20 minutes to reach a fire on the south side of Tubbs Hill,” Lauper said. In that time, with a slight breeze, a fire could go from ignition to 7 acres if ladder fuels are loaded.



That’s not the case if the fire stays low and slow.

Katie Kosanke, an urban forestry coordinator for the city of Coeur d’Alene, said a federal grant will pay for the project. She said the goats will work 22 acres.

“Not only do they eat all the shrubbery, they’re able to digest the seeds and break them down,” Kosanke said. “So we don’t have to worry about them spreading the seeds all over, versus when you have a mechanical hand crew go through.”

Some of the grant funds will pay for a hand crew to do some work on the hill to remove larger brush.

The goats save money.

The cost for a mechanical crew is anywhere between $900 and $1,500 per acre, depending on the company and the density of the lot. Goats cost $500 per acre.

“We just thought, ‘Why not give it a try?’” Kosanke said.

The goats’ hunger was obvious once they were released from their trailer, which was parked at the end of Tubbs Hill Drive. Pine needles, twigs, grasses, bark and leaves were consumed in a frenzy.

Hikers stopped to hear and see the joyous, bleating spectacle. Others from the public will be able to do the same during the next three weeks as the goats’ 1-acre pen is moved around the west side of Tubbs Hill.

Emily Donahue, a resident of Coeur d’Alene and a regular Tubbs Hill visitor, hiked up to the pen.

“I just think it’s awesome,” Donahue said. “Especially because it’s a bunch of families and kids that come up here.”

Craig Madsen, owner of Healing Hooves from Edwall, Wash., said the 200 goats are mostly Kiko and Boer goats, ranging in age from a few weeks old to a few years.

Madsen, who has been in the goat business for 11 years, said the goats will mow down an acre roughly each day.

“Goats are more of a browser like a deer and so they eat the brush and the weeds versus the grass,” Madsen said.

His goats are booked for eating engagements until August to mow down unwanted brush in spaces where working with equipment and manpower doesn’t make as much sense.

A pair of men’s blue boxer briefs dangled precariously from a long, leafless branch within the goats’ pen overlooking Lake Coeur d’Alene.

The underwear had not been consumed through the first hour as the goats roamed their new confines, though some had stood up on their back legs to apparently sample the foreign material.

“They won’t eat the underwear,” Madsen laughed. “They might mouth it.”

___

Information from: Coeur d’Alene Press, https://www.cdapress.com

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