The City of Missoula’s wooliest employees are back this summer to help with noxious weed control on City Open Space. Limited areas on the North Hills and Mount Jumbo will be temporarily closed to dogs starting June 20 as about 800 sheep graze on invasive species like dalmatian toadflax, leafy spurge, and spotted knapweed. Hiking without pets is permitted during dog closures; visit trailheads and www.missoulaparks.org for closure maps and more information.
Targeted grazing is a low-cost, effective way to control weeds and helps reduce reliance on chemical herbicides on City open space, says Conservation Lands Manager Jeff Gicklhorn. Grazing areas are completely closed to dogs this year because of the size of the sheep herd and the risks to both sheep and domestic dogs.
“At over 800 head, this by far the largest grazing project the City has ever undertaken,” says Conservation Lands Manager Jeff Gicklhorn. “In the past, we’ve had maybe 100-200 sheep on open space lands. With a herd this large, the potential for injury to both sheep and domestic dogs increases exponentially. No matter how well a dog is trained, his instinct to chase could put both him and the sheep in danger. In addition, livestock guardian dogs are not friendly toward other dogs or humans. They are trained to attack predators and can severely injure or kill a domestic dog.” Gicklhorn reminds hikers to avoid the sheep and their canine protectors during the dog closures.
Gicklhorn encourages residents to comply with the dog closures to keep their pets and the sheep safe. “The grazing program is a cost-effective, sustainable way to control noxious weeds on conservation lands and encourage the beneficial and beautiful wildflowers and native grasses we all enjoy. By working together, residents, pet owners and land managers can save money, preserve the natural landscape, and reduce the need for chemical herbicides,” he says. Residents can call 911 to report closure violations and are encouraged to note vehicle license plates of violators if possible.
The project is funded by the 2018 Conservation Lands Mill Levy. Maps and closure notices will be posted here and at trailheads. Learn more.