Lost and found: Missing goat (video)
The saga of Midnight, the black goat escape-artist, does end happily.
But for owner Alannah Lovegren, the 10-month separation was frustrating and stressful.
"Everyone thought it was such a comical story about this goat that no one could catch, but it wasn't for me," said the 25-year-old Lovegren, who graduated last year from UW-River Falls with an animal science management degree/equine emphasis. "I assumed it might take a couple of days to get him back -- but not 10 months!"
During that time Midnight didn't stray far.
In fact, there were numerous sightings, especially by town of Kinnickinnic residents, as the goat roamed within a 2 1/2-mile radius.
After several months of freedom, starting in early fall, Midnight even took up with a herd of more than 50 wild turkeys.
He seemed to become their leader as they foraged across pastures and slipped into woods for shelter from the elements.
It was last May that Lovegren had moved Midnight, then a one-year-old, from a boarding stable in Lake Elmo, Minn., to Liberty Ridge Stables just east of River Falls.
Her black goat is a fixed male. She got him from Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue where she volunteered.
"He was just four weeks old back then," Lovegren said, "For a while I bottle-raised him, three to four times a day, in between work, classes and an internship."
But a year later the move to River Falls and a new boarding stable proved disruptive. Lovegren believes the changed surroundings and absence of horses and other goats unsettled Midnight.
"He was overwhelmed," she said. "The first night when I left him in the barn, he looked at me like, 'What are you doing?' Then he jumped and banged against the door when I closed it.
"Midnight has always been free spirited. He likes to run around, either with his goat friends or by himself. But he's never tried to get away."
However, that happened the next morning when Lovegren opened the top half of the barn door to reach in and clip on a rope to walk Midnight to the horse paddock.
The bottom door, nearly 5 1/2 feet tall, was still closed. Midnight cleared it with one leap. Next he scooted under fencing where a board was missing.
After that he sprinted for some hillside trees. Lovegren grabbed a can of grain and pursued, but lost sight of Midnight. So began a 10-month break up.
"I was upset at that point, and panicky," said Lovegren, who also boards two ponies and a gelding. "We were all surprised Midnight could jump that high. Once he shot out and got away, he kept running."
While he was gone, Midnight was never really far away. Lovegren spotted her escaped goat on at least 15 occasions.
The sheriff's department was notified. Neighbors gave progress reports of sightings and locations. One neighbor, Jason Bauer, said Midnight made a "daily path" across his land while grazing.
Lovegren said she got close to Midnight, but not close enough to seize his collar. She brought tempting treats like alfalfa, apples and carrots, but Midnight never quite took the bait.
"I could get within five or 10 feet. That's all," she said. "But he was tense. Noises, rustlings would startle him, and off he'd go again. After a while I couldn't even get that close anymore. He got more and more wild.
"I was glad he was still alive, but I was concerned for his survival. The weather was bitterly cold...At the very least, a goat should have a three-sided shelter with a roof to go into to get out of the wind and snow. And there are also coyotes out there that could kill a goat. He could easily have perished this past winter."
And then there were those wild turkeys -- dozens of them. Midnight joined them before winter and was often in their midst.
"He must have bonded for the companionship," Lovegren said. "Like with deer and horses, it's the herd mentality. There's protection in numbers.
"He buddied up to those turkeys. They tried to ditch him at first but he kept following them. He became the boss of the herd, nipping at them to get them moving and sleeping with them."
By spring Lovegren said she had geared up for Plan B to recapture Midnight.
"Or maybe it was Plan C, D or E," she said. "I didn't know if I'd ever get him back. So I rode with my mare and practiced with the rope lassoing to see if I couldn't catch him that way. I got OK doing that, though I was practicing on a stationary wooden post."
Lovegren's lassoing skills were never put to the test.
Neighbors Dave and Geraldine Larson, 933 Quarry Road, caught Midnight on March 18.
The goat often came by the Larsons' property, nibbling at birdseed in a feeder and shrubbery along the house.
Even lacing the shrubs with hot taco sauce didn't keep Midnight away. Goats, after all, eat anything.
The Larsons finally got the black goat to change his snack habits. The new eating location was an old pole shed where machinery was kept. The snack was corn and oats.
One day their nine-year-old son Cooper saw Midnight inside the pole shed snacking. The boy ran over and slid the shed door shut.
Just like that Midnight's 10-month traveling spree ended.
Lovegren got a call with the good news. Midnight was escorted from the shed and into a waiting pickup truck with a top.
"I thought we'd have to lift him but he jumped right in," Lovegren said. "I was so relieved that he was OK and coming home."
Lovegren said goats show affection, though not like dogs.
"If you use their name enough, goats respond to it," she said. "They give you a look and their ears perk up and kind of aim at you like radar. Goats will hover around your legs, wanting attention and food."
Lovegren said Midnight's first few nights back in captivity were uneasy.
"Being confined to the barn left him a wreck," she said. "He was shaking, scared and not eating or drinking much. He was timid around me, almost as if he had become a little wild during that time he was away."
Gradually Midnight has gotten more relaxed inside the barn and is returning to his old goat self. There are other goats in the barn stalls for company but no wild turkeys. Lovegren still hasn't taken Midnight outside, but will soon.
When she does, she'll put a rope on him first, before opening any doors.
And this summer, she also plans to show Midnight competitively at the Washington County Fair in Lake Elmo, Minn.
Actually, that was the plan for last summer, before Midnight went AWOL.
Editor's note: For a brief video clip of Midnight and Alannah Lovegren, go to the Journal's Web site at www.riverfallsjournal.com.