Goats on a special mission at Naval Magazine Indian Island [Corrected]
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Chris Brown/U.S. Navy
Tammy Dunakin, chief goat wrangler, releases goats into a fenced-in area on Naval Magazine Indian Island to feed on invasive plants in the area.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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[Corrects name of command to Naval Magazine Indian Island.]
INDIAN ISLAND — Contractors are commonplace at Naval Magazine Indian Island, but a visiting squadron's mission and appearance are somewhat out of the ordinary.

Starting a few weeks ago, a herd of more than 100 goats of nine different breeds have been brought to the base, which is used for munitions storage and distribution, as an eco-friendly way to control invasive vegetation.

The goats are moved from one location to another on the base and will be on the job until mid-June, at which time the herd will move to another municipality in the Puget Sound area.

The goats are owned by Tammy Dunakin, chief goat wrangler for Rent-A-Ruminant LLC of Vashon Island, who hires out the goats during a season that begins in April and ends in November.

The goats, which eat about 12 hours a day, are treated well during their working years and then are given a comfortable retirement, Dunakin said.

They often are rescued animals that have been abused, she said, or come from people who bought one as a pet and did not realize what its care required, said assistant goat wrangler Rusty Cowley.

In the past, the base has used weed whackers and lawnmowers, which reportedly don't do as thorough a job.

“This benefits the Navy by clearing the invasive species,” said base Cmdr.Michael Yesunas.

“It's great because we are not using machines to clear this, and it really shows the Navy's dedication to the environment.

“It's a testament to the Navy's dedication to being eco-friendly,” he said.

A document listing the objectives of the program states that it controls invasive plants in a number of ways.

When machines are used to cut down plants, the seeds are distributed, and the plants grow again the following year.

But a goat's digestive system neutralizes the seeds instead of spreading them around.

In addition to stopping the spread of the plants, the goats' work helps increase visibility for security personnel and reduces the risk of a brush fire, the document said.

Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 29. 2013 9:32AM
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