VIRGINIA CITY — Bringing goats to Virginia City was one of Allyson Adams' first acts as the new mayor of this old gold mining town.
Nearly 200 of the animals are on Boot Hill, eating knapweed.
"We need more goats," Adams, who became mayor this spring, recently told some people at Virginia City's Metropolitan Market. "Next year, we'll probably need 1,000."
Goats were brought from Conrad to eat weeds that threaten Virginia City's native plants. Adams sees the animals as an alternative to spraying chemicals, but said chemical use along some roadways here will continue.
The mayor believes goats remind Virginia City's tourists and residents that Montana is an agricultural state, where animals serve a purpose.
"With all the development happening and people moving in, it's important to keep animals in front of people's eyes," she said.
The use of goats is being termed an experiment, for now.
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"Anytime you try something new, people are skeptical, and they should be," Adams said. "That's why we called it an experiment — the goat experiment."
Several participating landowners are likely to keep the goats busy all summer, said Kim Harris, who owns the animals. He charges $13 for every acre they cover.
Between Thursday afternoon and Friday afternoon, they chewed their way across 10 acres of city property.
"They've really demolished that," Harris said approvingly as he surveyed a patch of land that used to have a lot of knapweed.
Harris hopes that by summer's end the goats will have made two sweeps on the 650 acres or so where he has been asked to reduce weeds. Of that total, only about 30 acres belong to the city.
Harris said that since his arrival in Virginia City on Thursday, several people asked to have goats on their land.