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Goats introduced to help clean out local beaver habitat

SUBMITTED PHOTO: TONIA MCCONNELL  - Members of the B.E.A.V. group in the Bolton neighborhood brought more than 30 goats into a ravine to help clear out territory for local beavers. Back in the fall of 2014, when beavers first showed up in a ravine next to homes in the Bolton area, the question on everyone’s mind was how to deal with the creatures: Should they be driven away to avoid potential property damage, or accepted as a new and potentially beneficial addition to the neighborhood?

The answer was obvious to residents in the immediate vicinity of the beavers, and they eventually formed the group B.E.A.V., which stands for “Beaver Environmental Advocacy Volunteers.” In the months since the group was formed, B.E.A.V. members have helped educate residents on what it means to have beavers in a neighborhood — beyond the obvious tree-chomping problems — and hosted informational sessions with experts like Susan Barnes from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

This summer, their focus turned from education to concrete action. As it became clear that invasive plant species were creating problems for the beavers, the group decided that human intervention wouldn’t do the trick.

They needed goats.

“We assessed the health of the habitat in the ravine,” B.E.A.V. founder Peggy Watters said. “There’s a lot of invasive species down there, so our chance of being able to plant things for the beaver to keep him in the ravine was going to be difficult.

“Goats were a good alternative.”

SUBMITTED PHOTO: TONIA MCCONNELL  - Goats like this one were efficient little munchers according to B.E.A.V. founder Peggy Watters.

And so it was that 34 goats arrived at the ravine between Holly and Sinclair Street June 29 for a week-long feast. The goats were rented from Yoder Goats, which in the past has provided similar services for West Linn’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“(The goats) take it all down, eat it and fertilize it while they eat it,” Watters said. “What efficient little munchers they are.”

Beyond providing a crucial service to the beaver habitat, the goats also proved to be a popular attraction around the neighborhood. B.E.A.V. hosted a special ceremony June 29 to mark the goats’ arrival, and volunteers helped create a path for the goats to follow from their trailer down into the ravine.

Over the course of the next week, adults and children alike stopped by to visit with the goats and watch them “work.”

“It’s been fun to open all of our backyards and invite people back to hang out with the goats,” Watters said. “That whole community connection experience, it’s one of those experiences I think we’ve lost over the years. (The project) has been nice in many more ways than just clearing the ravine.”

Now that the goats have done their work, Watters said it will be up to B.E.A.V. members to take the next step.

“Our work isn’t done yet,” Watters said. “At our next meeting on July 13, we’ll be assessing how the goats did, and what do we do now?

“If we don’t move ahead to do proper planting that is thoughtful, we’ll lose the momentum of what the goats did for us.”

Later this month, on July 18, B.E.A.V. is set to host a potluck gathering for neighbors who are interested in learning more about the beavers and their habitat. For more information, contact Paul Spindel at 503-636-8489.

SUBMITTED PHOTO: TONIA MCCONNELL  - The goats made themselves right at home in the ravine, and even made a few new friends.

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