By Tim Kalinowski on July 31, 2021.
The City of Lethbridge is asking everyone to do their part to control foxtail in the community to protect pets and create more sightly public spaces.
While all noxious weeds are of great concern to City staff, foxtail barley, which is not classified as a weed, is a particular issue where pets are concerned, confirmed Mike Fox, director of Community Services for the City of Lethbridge.
“Foxtail is not a noxious weed,” he told media representatives following several public complaints on the subject over the last few weeks. “It is actually a commonly found plant. It is very opportunistic in our region here. With the dry conditions we have been having this year, it has really shown its presence. It likes disturbed soil, and it is a common problem for dogs and pets. We do recommend everybody to keep your pet on leash and make sure you know where your dog is. And make sure it is not getting into the foxtail.”
Dogs will often get the barbed heads of foxtail embedded in various orifices and in soft tissues such as those between the toes. The foxtail actually works its way into soft tissue causing severe irritation and potentially dangerous infections which often requires veterinary assistance to treat and remove.
Fox said the City is doing what it can to combat the problem on public lands by mowing, weeding, picking and tilling, and it is generally a manageable problem in a normal year.
“We do try and remove it,” he stated. “If it is an area we mow it usually doesn’t get a chance to grow to be any effect. It actually has to get to 10 cm before it actually creates the part (beard) of the plant that causes issues.”
Fox said on a dry year like this one though even mowing isn’t 100 per cent effective as the foxtail is coping better with the heat than the surrounding grasses, and is growing back quicker in some instances.
He also said given the opportunistic nature of the plant, the City can’t do it all alone. They need to be able to count on private property owners to also do their part.
“Like most types of plants or weeds that are opportunistic they shed a lot,” he confirmed.
“So wind doesn’t help. It spreads other ways too: it sticks to people, it sticks to bikes, your feet. I know if you go down to Waterton right now every trail has a place to wipe off your boots. We have our priority areas, and the City tries to keep up on it, but it is really important private residents do the same on their own property. That’s why we are trying to reach out and educate people more.”
Fox said the City is also reaching out to local land developers to co-ordinate control efforts.
“We consider our developers a key partner with the City, and so we have open lines of communication,” confirmed Fox, in response to a question about public complaints about foxtail growing uncontrolled on these development lands. “And everybody we have talked to, all the developers, were very keenly interested in this issue. I believe most of the areas where there was an issue, the developers are looking after it.”
However, Fox said pet owners also have a responsibility to look out for their own animals if foraying into these privately owned spaces.
“It’s in (developers) best interests to have good public relations too,” he stated, “but it also important for residents to realize development areas are not public lands and they should be keeping their dogs close by so they don’t run into issues.”
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