Help wanted: Why a Thunder Bay ski hill is looking to hire a goat herder

Strange seasonal jobs build character, but life’s possibilities after being hired as the inaugural summer goat herder at a ski hill in Thunder Bay, Ont., are limitless.

Mount Baldy’s help wanted ad stands out on the local job board:

“The livestock attendant will be responsible for the care of a small goat herd used for maintenance of shrubbery and grasses on the ski runs and trails.”

The co-owner and self-described goat master of Mount Baldy, Daniel Kardas, a former member of Canada’s ski-jump team, said he doesn’t expect to receive a lot of resum├ęs with deep, related experience.

“We’ve put it out there,” he said. “We’re looking for a goat herder, which is kind of funny when you really think about it. Because who the hell has been a goat herder, right? Not many out there. It’s a fun job. There are some dirty parts of it.”

Goat herding responsibilities over the nine-week contract include driving the melange of alpine and Boer goats to new areas on the mountain, cleaning their barn and pen, monitoring their health and “other duties, as required.”

Several baby goats were born at Mount Baldy this winter, adding to the lawn-maintenance crew. (Jon Thompson/CBC)

The ideal candidate may also encounter rare instances of lurking wolves, coyotes, lynx or bears. Kardas pointed out the fence that the goat herder will move across the mountain to corral the animals is armed with 90 kilowatts of solar-powered electricity that would give any predator “a good zap.”

He said his goats are clever when it comes to danger.

“They sense it from such a far distance that they know. They’ll just move. I haven’t had any issues yet, thank the Lord. Knock on wood.”

It has been four winters since Kardas bought Thunder Bay’s “stunt hill” with his brother Jason Kardas. With his history of ski jumping, he leaned into the stunt brand, building more rails and jumps. In the summer, they’ve started hosting live music and mud runs while their wedding schedule is booked solid.

Those summer events unfurl at the foot of a floral blanket of fluorescent green, healthy grasses that climb the approximately 400-metre hill, thanks to the nutrients in only a few years of goat waste.

Kardas originally rented the herd from a neighbor before he bought 19 goats of his own last year. Now that it’s up to 33, he’s reached the point where he needs backup.

Daniel Kardas says the goats follow him wherever he goes and he’s confident the herder they hire will build the same relationship with the animals. (Jon Thompson/CBC)

“These goats know me so no matter what, they’re going to follow me,” he said. “Now it’s a matter of training this new person to get to know these goats and really get close with the goats. They’ll recognize him and eventually, start to follow him.”

Kardas will advise the new recruit to keep treats in their pockets to build relationships. Moving a tent up the mountain for shelter on hot, sunny days helps to keep them close by.

But no matter how well you treat them, he said, there are going to be moments where goats make a break for it.

“It’s just going to be a little bit of teaching but I think whoever gets the job’s going to have a blast. And they’re definitely going to have a good workout, that’s for sure, because good luck catching a goat.”

The job posting closes today, on June 13. It pays $15 per hour.

The goats keep the grass in good shape, even on steep areas of the hill. (Jon Thompson/CBC)

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