MISSOULA – About 70 sheep will be grazing on noxious weeds in the North Hills for the next several weeks until the herd moves to Mount Jumbo later in the summer.
City officials are asking that hikers using the North Hills Froehlich Trailhead to be especially vigilant about protecting the herd from off-leash dogs.
Conservation Lands Manager Morgan Valliant notes that while grazing is an economical, chemical-free way to manage weeds and restore native plant growth the city loses several sheep each year to domestic dog attacks.
Valliant says that many times the dogs involved in the attacks come to Missoula open space with their owners, and the attacks occur out of the owner’s line of sight.
Even dogs that are not normally aggressive may attack grazing animals. For this reason, open space users are required to keep dogs leashed when hiking near the sheep and owners will be cited for “dog-at-large” by if they fail to do so.
In addition, dogs must be under voice restraint on City of Missoula open space at all times and must be leashed in parking lots, 200 yards from all trailheads and where posted.
Any violations should be reported to Missoula Animal Control at (406) 541-7387. Pet owners are also required to remove their pet’s waste from all parks, trails and open space.
Courts can levy fines up to $275 for a “dog at large” citation, and restitution can include all veterinary and transportation expenses and the replacement value of the sheep.
“The alternative to grazing is herbicides. The sheep help us manage weeds on over 1,000 acres without using chemicals. We’re asking for the public’s help…to control their dogs and let the sheep herd do its work," Valliant said in a news release.