March 12, 2002 – Help may be on the way for beleaguered St. John residents who have seen a growing goat population devour their gardens, drop manure on their driveways, frighten their household pets and erode the hillsides to the point where large gullies now run downhill.
Agriculture Commissioner Henry Schuster said on Tuesday that his department has ordered fencing for pens to be used in trapping the goats. And he said the department is going to be enforcing the law territorywide on identifying livestock as to owner and fining those whose animals stray.
"We are going to do something. I'm a doer," he promised.
For the goat pens, he said he was waiting for the check to be cut.
Schuster called on residents to help. He said that when animals roam around their neighborhoods, people should alert the Agriculture Department. And he said he will need help from residents in determining where to set up the pens, which he said would be 20 feet square or 30 feet square.
Last year the Legislature appropriated $100,000 for the Agriculture Department to hire staff to tag the animals, install water lines to farmers and purchase equipment and supplies. However, Schuster said he needs more money to get rid of the roaming animals.
St. John residents were hopeful that this time the Agriculture Department will come through in getting rid of the goats. In past years, they have made repeated calls for help, but the goat population continues to grow.
Ken Damon, who lives in Upper Carolina said he expects Schuster's efforts to make some impact, but he said it will be difficult to get rid of all the goats. He has herded large groups of them down the hillside, he said, only to have them return. "Night after night, they go click-clack down the wooden stairs," he said.
The goats that live in Carolina and Ajax Peak started out belonging to a Coral Bay resident who let them roam free. Separate herds have now broken off the main herd and are continuing to grow in size through reproduction. Additionally, herds of roaming goats long ago took up residence at various locations on the eastern end of the island.
Damon has been building his own pen to capture the goats. He said he has a lead on a St. Thomas resident who will butcher them in Damon's yard in exchange for the meat.
Because of the growing feral animal population across the territory, Schuster said, he is going to begin enforcing a law requiring that all cattle, horses, sheep, goats and pigs be tagged, branded or tattooed to show ownership. Any animal found straying will be impounded, and the owner will be assessed a fined between $50 and $250.
Owners must fill out a registration form available at Agriculture Department offices on St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John. Until Aug. 31, the department will not charge a fee for registering animals. After that, there will be a charge of $1 for tags and $5 for branding. Department personnel will visit make on-site visits to do the branding and tattooing.
After Aug. 31, any animals found roaming without identification will become the property of the Agriculture Department, which will dispose of them. If an animal is sold, the owner must notify Agriculture. If it is stolen, the owner must notify the Police Department.
For more information, call Schuster at 778-0991 or any of the following Agriculture personnel: on St. Thomas, Dr. Bethany Bradford at 776-6274; on St. Croix, Dr. Duke L. Deller or Sharon Hill at 778-0997, ext. 241 or 240; and on St. John, Raymond Thomas at 776-6274.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here