Every spring, Pendleton’s population balloons by roughly 1,000 new–albeit temporary–residents. But these kids and their parents aren’t just visiting: These goats are baaaaad news for weeds and undergrowth around town. (We promise that’s the last goat pun in this blog post.)
Here’s the skinny: Every April and May, the city of Pendleton brings hundreds, if not thousands, of goats to town to eat weeds and undergrowth–all to prevent the spread of invasive and noxious plants, and to cut down on fuel for potential wildfires as summer temperatures arrive.
The first goats arrived in 2012, and roughly 1,400 will eat their way through Pendleton this spring. So if you’re interested in seeing the parade of goats around town, here’s a quick rundown of what you should know about the annual tradition:
Years ago, the City of Pendleton looked for a cost-effective way to solve a number of challenges: City staff wanted to meet federal regulations for levee maintenance to prevent flooding, remove invasive species of plants along the Umatilla River and throughout town, and get rid of any undergrowth that might make ample fuel in case of wildfire.
The city’s solution? Goats. Lots and lots of goats.
The thinking went that hundreds of goats could graze for a few weeks around town, eating the problematic plants and clearing away thickets that might add to seasonal fire risks. Clearing away the brush would also satisfy requirements established by the U.S. Corp of Army Engineers and U.S. Department of Homeland Security for levee maintenance and debris removal. (Not just that, but it’s a whole lot easier than hiring gardeners for the world’s largest weed-picking project.)
Pendleton first brought about 900 goats to town in 2012, and the number swelled to more than 1,400 this spring. (Fun fact: Goats were chosen over sheep, because their digestive system does better at helping eliminate noxious weeds.)
In all, the goats munch their way through about 66 acres of city land, including on the levee along the Umatilla River, the vegetation-rich area just north of the river, the city’s river intake and pump station site, and the city’s wastewater recovery facility.
Your best bet for seeing the goats will occur the week of May 20, 2019, when goats will be present along the main levee in and around downtown Pendleton; the goats will start at the west end of the levee, near Trailhead Park, and work their way east along the River Parkway.
Strange as it sounds, the goats are working. And this isn’t a petting zoo–so think twice before trying to get a selfie with one of the resident goats. For starters, the goats are all confined to a specific area by an electrified fence, and trying to breach that barrier may cause harm. What’s more, the goats aren’t trained for petting and may react negatively if they feel threatened, so we’d suggest enjoying the view from behind the fence.
Along those lines, the goats are accompanied by herd dogs, so visitors should keep their pets on a leash while viewing the herd.
If you’re coming to town to see a county fairs’ worth of grazing goats, consider staying the night and seeing what Pendleton has to offer. We have a variety of hotels, historic lodgings, B&Bs, and more to meet every budget. See where to stay on your next trip to Pendleton.