Cloven quintet vanishment quandry

Wheat Ridge goats went missing Dec. 30

Posted 1/8/19

Wendell, Daryl, his other brother Daryl, Yoda and Creampuff are missing — five goats on the lam. The farm animals, all from Five Fridges Farm, had been in a fenced off portion of the Clear Creek …

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Cloven quintet vanishment quandry

Wheat Ridge goats went missing Dec. 30

Posted

Wendell, Daryl, his other brother Daryl, Yoda and Creampuff are missing — five goats on the lam.

The farm animals, all from Five Fridges Farm, had been in a fenced off portion of the Clear Creek Greenway Open Space area, by invitation from the city of Wheat Ridge, as part of a weed control and fire mitigation program. Sometime between 3 p.m. on Dec. 30 and 5 a.m. on Dec. 31, they disappeared.

We’re talking about a thousand pounds of goat,” said the farm owner Amanda Weaver, which makes their sudden and complete disappearance so strange. She says it’s unlike the goats to stay hidden.

“They’re curious,” Weaver said. “They just want to go where other people, or animals are, just to be part of the larger herd.”

Weaver said she’s received an outpouring of community support regarding the goats’ disappearance, including groups assisting in searches of surrounding neighborhoods and park areas last week. Even with Wheat Ridge Police Department joining the search, there has been no sign.

On Jan. 4, the police issued a press release, offering a money reward through Crime Stoppers for information regarding the goat’s disappearance.

An established partnership

Wheat Ridge Forestry and Open Space Supervisor Margaret Paget said she remembers when she and Weaver started discussing how to put the 5 Fridges goats to work for the betterment of the city.

“She had the goats and we were looking to reduce some of our chemical use, and reduce some of our fire danger,” Paget said.

Goats, it turns out, are uniquely good at eating virtually anything green, even tough weeds like thistle that most other animals avoid. Even better, a goat’s digestive system breaks down even the most stubborn of weed seed structure.

Put another way by Paget, “when a goat eats a weed it doesn’t sprout on the other end.”

“They like everything, any green matter,” Weaver said. In fact, she says goats can be trained to specifically eat certain weeds. In the first year, Weaver said a standoff happened, when the five goats grazed on everything else in a five-acre pen, but left a big patch of thistle.

“I just kept waiting till it disappeared,” Weaver said, and it eventually did.

The weed-eating had real benefits for the farm too, beyond the free goat food. It was also immediate publicity for the farm.

Charming ambassadors

The friendly goats were most commonly set up in five-acre fenced-in areas along the Wheat Ridge Greenbelt, near the Kipling trailhead. Soon, area trailgoers became familiar with the small herd.

“They’re just really good goats,” said Weaver. “They’re like dogs, they know their names.”

Weaver said the visibility of the goats helped introduce people to the possibilities of urban farming. She organized mini “parades” for the public to help herd the goats to and from the farm after an area had been grazed. She also found new ways for the goats to help the city, either by eating up old Christmas trees, or by cleaning up after overabundant apple trees.

City parks maintenance worker Steve Leyba was among those tasked with keeping an eye on the goat enclosure, making sure the animals were well, and well watered. He said the city crews definitely got to know the personalities of the group.

“They’d see the city truck and they’d gather up,” Leyba said, recalling how Wendell was always clearly the boss, nudging the smaller goats around if he felt they weren’t where they were supposed to be.

There had been escapes over the years. The first time the city set up the enclosure, Wendell figured out how to lift the gate off the hinges, and the group escaped. They were found a short distance away, in the parking lot of a dentist’s office, standing on somebody’s car, to reach the leaves of an overhanging tree branch.

The rare escape aside, Leyba says the goats were very effective at what they did, and “were all pretty cool.”

“I think we’re all really heartbroken”

Leyba was on vacation last week when the news of the goat disappearance circulated among city employees and the community. He said another worker, also on vacation, went out of his way to give him a call about the disappearance.

“I know some of us headed straight down there to try and find out what happened.”

Paget said her first reaction was disbelief — surely the five would turn up quickly, as they had before. Now, she assumes they were taken, especially since the Wendell-proof hinges on the gate seem to have been removed from the enclosure.

Weaver shared the bad news on social media, where the community concern for the goats could be seen in dozens of shares and replying messages to every update.

“I think we’re all just really heartbroken,” said Weaver, though she said it is touching to see how much ownership of the goats the community has developed.

As for why someone would take the goats, Weaver is at a loss. She said as farm animals, their value would be less than $400. In the meantime, she continues to raise her other 11 goats and the rest of the animals at 5 Fridges Farm.

“I just miss them,” she said. “When you have a small herd, it’s not just like a farm animal. You really get to know all of their personalities.”

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