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Southeast Calgary residents wage war on foxtail grass

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While it's not officially seen as a noxious weed, foxtail grass can cause major problems for dogs and their owners.

That's why a Calgary city councillor and a group of volunteers are hoping more developers will get on board with a strategy to eliminate the fast-spreading plant.

Foxtail grass is thriving in a number of communities in southeast Calgary, in areas that have been cleared for construction and left vacant.

The problem with foxtail grass, according to veterinarians, is that it produces sharp, barbed seeds that can easily become stuck in paws, ears and on a dog's skin, creating a huge problem for the animal and a big bill for their owner.

One owner CTV News spoke with in early August said the cost for removing one of the tiny seeds from her dog's nose was approximately $500. Other dog owners say they've had bills for more than $1,000.

In some cases, the dogs have been able to recover after extensive surgery but other animals have died as a result of ingesting the seeds.

One Mahogany resident says dealing with foxtail grass seed on their pet is an annual problem.

"It's a huge issue. We live on the pond and they blow right into our yard," said Kate Kaughman.

The problem has progressed to the point where Ward 12 Coun. Evan Spencer says he is looking at creating a bylaw that will force developers to help out.

That's because newer communities, where lots are left vacant for weeks at a time, are the perfect place for foxtail grass to grow.

Spencer wants developers to do their part to maintain those lots to make sure foxtail doesn't take hold so easily.

"As we did our research, it really became evident that kind of a 'scorched earth' process of getting rid of this likely wasn't possible and would also be very resource-intensive," Spencer told CTV News on Tuesday.

In the meantime, Spencer and a group of concerned residents from the area say they're relying on education and mitigation to control the spread of foxtail grass.

The mitigation process right now consists of pulling out the clumps of grass by hand.

"It really kind of started two or three years ago. There were two massive fields that grew foxtails and caused an awful lot of problems for a couple neighbourhoods. Since then, it's really propagated out," Spencer said.

He says southeast Calgary has the "largest saturation" of pet owners, so controlling foxtail grass in that section of the city is a priority.

More details on foxtail grass can be found the city's website.

(With files from Austin Lee and Tyson Fedor)

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