Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007

Goats roaming industrial park are in need of a winter home

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Chris Rossi⁄The Gazette
Bruce Shirey of Advanced Technology and Research Corp. in Burtonsville feeds a trio of goats — Manny, Moe and Jack — who have been roaming around the Burtonsville Industrial Park since the summer.
The Burtonsville Industrial Park has gone to the goats.

Bruce Shirey even named them: Manny, the littlest, with black hair; Moe, the brown-haired leader and largest; and Jack, middle-sized with a patch of white on its head.

Shirey has fed the stray goats every morning for the last six weeks upon his arrival at Advanced Technology and Research Corp., where he works as a field technician. But the company moved to Columbia this week, and Shirey is worried the goats will not be able to survive the winter on their own.

‘‘I just want to see if someone can come here and get them,” he said. ‘‘We just don’t want them to die out here.”

The goats’ lives on the lam began this summer, when Shirey said they jumped off a farmer’s truck and crossed Route 198 to the office park on Dino and Star Pointe drives.

The farmer was unable to catch the goats, Shirey said, so Shirey called the Montgomery County Police Department’s Animal Services Division when he noticed the trio, which always travel together and are skittish around almost everyone.

Deputy Director Paul Hibler said the division has known about the goats since the summer and has been out to the area six times, each time unable to corner the goats for capture.

‘‘Until they can be corralled, there is nothing we can do,” said Hibler, who said animal services has handled stray dogs and stray pot-bellied pigs, but never stray goats. ‘‘It’s a matter of being at the right place at the right time.”

The officers’ only weapon is manpower, Hibler said, since tranquilizer guns contain narcotics not approved for use by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. The division considers the goats ‘‘intentionally abandoned” because pet owners typically call soon after their pets are missing, Hibler added.

During the day, the goats play around the office park. Shirey and co-worker Scott Cullison said they and other employees have seen the goats on top of cars, in some cases butting heads. The goats have eaten the tops of nearly all the bushes along the curb across from ATR, congregate near the heat vents under the building’s alcoves and have made such a mess as to render the company’s picnic tables useless.

‘‘They’re pests, but cool to watch,” Shirey said. ‘‘They don’t bother anyone.”

At night, the goats sleep under cover outside of CMI Moulding⁄Washington on Star Pointe Drive, which faces ATR. Owner Jim Miller said he has also called animal services, along with local media outlets and a shelter in Poolesville. Miller has also set up food in the back of one of his delivery trucks in the hopes of trapping the goats inside, even putting a picnic table next to the truck for easy access, but has had no success.

‘‘We’ve gone through a lot of effort,” he said.

On Friday morning, Shirey walked through the snow in a small, grassy valley between ATR and CMI Moulding to spread out a bowl of goat food about 10 feet away from the goats. He also occasionally cuts up apples. As Shirey stepped away, the goats moved in to eat, with Moe and Jack pushing the smaller Manny away until they were full.

‘‘Bruce they trust,” said Cullison, a senior computer systems analyst who was impressed with the goats’ intelligence. ‘‘They don’t trust anyone else.”

Shirey has thought about trying to catch the goats himself, but would have nowhere to put them if he was successful. ‘‘What would I do with them?” he said.

Hibler said the goats should be able to survive the winter if not captured, comparing them to deer in their ability to find shelter and food. All of the goats appear to be in ‘‘excellent condition,” he said, with good weight and a good coat of hair.

Should the goats be captured, animal services would hold them for a period of time to see if their owner claims them, Hibler said. If the goats are not claimed, the Montgomery County Humane Society would then try to find them a good home, Hibler said.