More than 100 goats will chomp vegetation near Alderwood mall

LYNNWOOD — They came. They saw. They ate.

An army of 110 goats is chomping through tangled vegetation that was overtaking the Alderwood mall detention pond. The goats will be on the job through July 2 or 3.

The Lynnwood Public Works Department deployed them behind the AMC Loews Alderwood Mall 16 theaters to clear blackberry bushes and other overgrown greenery populating the steep slope around the pond.

The goats are grazing under contract with Rent-A-Ruminant of Vashon Island. Tammy Dunakin, the head wrangler and owner, began the business 10 years ago with two goats.

Dunakin owns 135 now and names them all. They include Dewey, Guinness and Ringo. During a visit to their job site, it was clear each goat has a unique personality, moxie and spunk. Ernie has starred in a Taco Time commercial.

“They love what they do,” Dunakin said.

A majority of the goats are rescued or obtained from previous owners who could not take care of the animals. In Dunakin’s herd, there are nine breeds.

When a goat retires, usually around the age of 10 to 12, it is not slaughtered. It retires to a loving home.

For the city of Lynnwood, the goats are a perfect solution to overgrown areas. The animals curb unwanted vegetation without herbicides.

“The city has been very sustainability-minded,” City Councilman Ian Cotton said.

And with goats, there is no debris left behind or even seeds. Their digestive system sterilizes seeds, so when the goats relieve themselves, the prospect of vegetation returning is slim.

Goats will eat most plants including blackberries, ivy, Scotch broom, nettle, thistle, tree saplings and many others.

Without machinery, the work is done quietly, although one can hear an occasional bleat or baa.

And goats can clear areas inaccessible to machines and humans.

“The pond slopes are really steep, and our guys can only go so far,” said Lynnwood Environmental and Surface Water Manager Jared Bond. “One of our guys actually fell in the pond.”

The city estimates it would cost 27 cents per square foot if the work was done by humans. The goats do the same work for a mere 13 cents per square foot.

After about 10 days, the goats have cleared 58,000 square feet.

After the shrubbery is cleared from the Alderwood mall detention pond, the city is considering using goats for other projects.

Brenna Holland: bholland@heraldnet.com.

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