Goats on the lam: Escaped mini-herd eludes capture in hilltowns

SAVOY — As a Savoy farmer now realizes, a goat is trying to tell you something when it just plain smashes its way out a closed garage window.

Or when they climb in a pack, "like zombies," over a fence topped with an electric wire.

A goat wants to be free.

And stay that way.

For the past month, Jazzmyn Tulloch has been chasing seven Alpine goats that escaped from her Dandy Lion of Thyme Farm, on Main Road beside the Savoy firehouse. The escapees have been spotted across North County, as far west as Cheshire, and south into Windsor and even Otis.

The score as of Friday: Tulloch, 1; goats, 5.

One goat came back on a rope, thanks to heroic efforts by a Cheshire man, Trent Gaylord. Another died in a fall off a 125-foot ledge.

"There's no way to close Pandora's box once you've opened it," Tulloch said of the goats' flight.

Her troubles began a month ago Sunday, when she was transporting 11 goats from one owner to another in the area. The herd had browsed its way through the owner's pasture, and Tulloch said the man didn't want to pay for feed.

When she got them back to her farm, she released them into a fenced area, not wanting to keep them penned overnight in a trailer. The animals, a breed of dairy goat, seemed skittish and were not accustomed to being near people, she noticed.

What happened next put a fine point on that. Six of the 11 rushed toward a fence, led by a particularly motivated goat.

"When they start freaking out, they all start freaking out," Tulloch said.

Despite the electric line at the top, the six goats surged over. Tulloch likens it to a scene from the movie "World War Z," in which zombies rush a wall.

"That was my goats," she said. "They were at the fence for maybe two minutes, if that. They were looking for a place to run."

The next day, two more truants made their way free, after the oldest female in the herd, not impressed by the looks of a closed garage window, used it to make her getaway, promptly followed by another.

"She just burst right through it," Tulloch said of the goat, which she had put in a garage for safe-keeping. "I just caught sight of her back end going through."

According to a publication of the American Goat Society, Alpines, originally bred in the French alps, are considered friendly and "highly curious." They're also known to be independent and strong-willed. Mature Alpines weigh about 130 pounds, big enough to make short work of a window.

For the past month, Tulloch and others have been tracking the loose goats through reports coming in from people across a good swath of the region. The area southwest of Savoy center, though settled around the edges by people, is largely wild.

The 7,093-acre Chalet Wildlife Management Area lies in the big tract bounded by Route 8 on the west, Route 116 to the north, and Route 8A on the east and south.

The state-managed wildlife area itself is likely home to animals that could pose threats to truant livestock — among them coyotes and, possibly, bobcats.

Jim Corey, who lives about 6 miles south of the farm on Flintstone Road in Windsor, as the crow flies, knew all about Tulloch's plight when he stopped to talk to a reporter on his street.

"Goats roaming around is not a really good thing," he said.

The folks at Friendly Fred's, the gas station and shop on routes 9 and 8A, were keeping up with the predicament.

Owner Jennifer Perilli said the store became a kind of clearinghouse of reports.

"We would hear news of the sightings of them," she said.

Goats were spotted further west, at Wahconah Falls and at Holiday Brook Farm. Along the way, they had split into two groups, Tulloch learned. One pair, a buck and doe, is now believed to be in Windsor.

In dogged pursuit, Tulloch has driven to Windsor often in past weeks, setting up a fence enclosure and trying to lure back the goats with food.

"We were there all the time," she said. When not looking for them, she at times worries about her legal liability.

Three other goats are thought to be loose in Cheshire.

Tulloch is grateful to Gaylord, the Cheshire man who has been working to round up the goats. He was the one who informed her that one of the Alpines had died.

"She got pushed off the cliff by the other three," Tulloch said of the goat that was killed. "We got her back in bits and pieces."

But Gaylord managed to catch one of the goats — and return it to the Savoy farm. Gaylord could not be reached to describe his efforts.

Given the large area the goats have to roam, Tulloch's best bet on recovering the five Alpines rests on goodwill.

"We have to wait on spotters," she said.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.


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