“Where are the goats?”… that’s been asked many times so here’s a summary of what happened at Lake Martin’s Goat Island.
Late on March 3rd, 2022, there was a post made on Facebook from the goat owners Ricky & Stacie Baker, that had been putting their pets on Lake Martin’s Goat Island over the last few years.
“It saddens our family to inform the Lake Martin community that we will no longer be putting the Goats on the Island. Providing our Goats for everyone to enjoy has been an honor and we feel privileged to have had the opportunity. The last couple years, we have faced and overcame many challenges and think that it is the best decision for the Goats as well as our family. Fortunately, with last years challenges, we didn’t lose any Goats, so we feel like it’s the right time to end on a good note. We really appreciate all of the support over the last few years, we couldn’t have continued it as long as we did without you all. We hope that everyone can respect our decision as it is best for family.“
Goat Island is a 70 acre island with sandy beaches to beach your boat and areas for camping on the East side of the island. Goat Island is owned by the Alabama Power Company.
The last year had been challenging with the increased visitors to the lake and keeping the goats safe. The Lake Martin Boaters Facebook Group and the Bakers page had numerous posts last year about problems on the island. In 2020 a goat passed away after ingesting something that made it sick. In 2019 a dog was killed after chasing a goat into the water.
Despite the hardships, the goats remained for the enjoyment of kids and families around the lake for 2021. It was a beloved destination for many and on most weekends it was difficult to find an open spot to park your boat. TV crews came, news broadcasts, bloggers and YouTubers named it the hottest destination on Lake Martin. People came from all around to pet the family goats on an island in the middle of Lake Martin.
And then the posts came in showing photos of the goats being fed alcoholic beverages, rocks being thrown at goats after they had boarded boats in search or cheesy treats. The complaint heard the most was that boaters had dogs not only ON their boats but some on the island. Several times dogs had chased the goats up into the woods and near the water. The owners of the goats said they can not swim and there was a fear they could drown if scared by any canines. Occasionally a dog would break free and chase a goat and in May 0f 2021, a goat named Rosie was bitten by a dachshund.
Several times people suggested to shoot any dogs who were seen on the island. Posts made on Lake Martin Boaters Facebook group were denied when any suggestions of violence towards dogs or people were made. At one point Facebook threatened to remove the group due to all the threats towards people and animals.
The Marine Police were called numerous times and released a statement about the Island.
LAKE MARTIN – The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s (ALEA) Marine Patrol Division understands Goat Island on Lake Martin is an open use island owned by the Alabama Power Company and any member of the public may access the island. The “Please Keep Dogs Away From Goats” signs are not restrictive and individuals who take their dogs on the island are not violating any laws or rules. Law enforcement cannot cite or arrest individuals for allowing their dogs on the island. We do ask that boaters follow the suggested signs and keep their dogs away from the goats, but we also ask that people refrain from confronting one another in a hostile, verbally or physically threatening manner – because those actions may be illegal and may result in charges against the parties involved.
Island goers wanting to protect the pet goats had been making threats to people and canines on the island and online for not following the perceived “rules” of the Island. Many learned at that time that the signs saying “no dogs” were not restrictive, that the island was designated open use for the public to enjoy. There were no official rules from Alabama Power that prohibited families and their pets from using to 70 acre island for recreation. What was once a hidden gem was now a full fledged attraction with countless smiles and joy, but the chance of hostility and violence was never far away. The complaints and threats from those wanting to protect the Bakers goats continued though their last year on the island.
The overwhelming response to the Bakers post was thanking them for sharing their pets over the summers and thanking them for keeping the goats safe. We will all miss the goats this year but understand that the safety of the goats come first.
And then there were new goats...
A couple weeks later around March 18th, 2022, a new family of goats were placed on the island anonymously by another local family. There were about a dozen goats and several large igloo shaped domes put our for their shelter. Families shared images of the new friendly goat family that inhabited the island. Much to delight of the community, the new goats were embraced.
Shortly after the new goats were discovered the Bakers made a public post wanting to know who owned the goats and asking them to contact Alabama Power. Shortly after the new goats were removed.
I reached out to local law enfroment about the new goat controversy and their position from the press release in 2021 was the same in 2022. According to Alabama Law,
Taking up as estrays of equine, equidae, etc., running at large about residences, etc.
Any person who finds running at large about his or her residence or premises or the residence or premises of which he or she has charge any equine or equidae, cattle, hog, sheep, or goat, the owner of which is unknown, may take up such animal as an estray to be disposed of as provided in Sections 3-2-2 to 3-2-4, inclusive.
Taking up of livestock or animals running at large by highway patrol, etc.; notification of owner thereof generally.
Any state trooper, the sheriff and his deputies of any county, or the constable of any precinct or any law enforcement officer of any municipality shall take possession of any livestock or animal found at large upon the premises of another or upon the public lands, roads, highways or streets in the State of Alabama, and the owner of such livestock or animal, when so taken up, shall be notified personally or the owner may be notified by leaving a written notice at the usual place of residence of such owner, within 24 hours after the taking up of such livestock or animal.
Taking up of livestock or animals running uncontrolled on lands of another by owner, etc., of said lands; notification of owner of livestock or animals generally.
Any person who is the owner of or in the lawful possession of any land or the agent of any such person shall have the right to take possession of any livestock or animal found at large, uncontrolled, on his premises or on premises of which he has charge and the owner of such livestock or animal, when so taken up, shall be personally notified or, if the owner cannot be found, the owner may be notified by leaving a written notice at the usual place of residence of such owner, within 24 hours after the taking up of such livestock or animal, and by posting notice as provided in Section 3-5-8.
The new goats made an appearance at the 2022 Russell Marine 4th of July Parade.
At the date of this article there are no goats on the island and the future of any new goats looks highly unlikely.