2 Leesburg weed goats die; owner says they may have been poisoned

The owner of a herd of goats hired by Leesburg, Virginia, to clear weeds from a rocky waterway said two of her animals died on the job.

Mary Bowen, owner of Browsing Green Goats, based in Sunderland, Maryland, had 53 goats munching and clearing a creek bed on July 17. Two days later, two goats died.

“It was either a snake bite or someone fed them something that killed them,” Bowen said. “They had copious amounts of blood coming out of their nose and diarrhea — all signs of something poisonous.”

Temporary fencing had been erected in the area where the goats were working; and when they were found dead, “The fence had been cut and pulled down,” Bowen said.

Loudoun County Animal Services determined the herd had adequate food, water and shade during a heat wave. The official cause of death could not be determined without a necropsy, which was not done because Bowen said she didn’t have access to a large enough refrigeration unit.

Bowen said copperhead snakes had previously been spotted in the stream bank floodway channel, near the corner of Dry Mill Road Southwest and Town Branch Terrace.

In addition, despite a goat’s ability to digest almost any weed, some foods meant for humans or other animals can be dangerous for goats.

Bowen said the work area did not have surveillance cameras to determine if the goats had been harmed by a human.

The weed project will wrap up this week, and when her herd returns in the fall for another clearing, Bowen said she will be working with the town’s department of public works to enhance the security.

See a video of the goats clearing weeds.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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