Army of Goats Enlisted to Battle Back Invasive Plants

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Public Domain. Courtney Celley/USFWS

Non-native vegetation can be a pernicious and formidable foe, invading unsuspecting landscapes and choking out plant life that actually belongs there. Try as we might to battle back those most unwanted of weeds, even our most advanced landscaping tools are often ineffective in staving off the fast-growing onslaught.

Thankfully, there's backup.

Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, a wildlife sanctuary outside of Milwaukee, is suppose to be a haven for local biodiversity -- but two particularly nasty invasive plant species, Buckthorn and Honeysuckle, had other plans. Since the weeds first found their way into the area, they've now come to occupy much of the sanctuary's 180-acres, towering over native species and deterring visits from birds and other animals.

Since mowers and pesticides seemed like less than an eco-minded solution to the problem, nature center officials turned one of nature's most hardened plant eradicators -- enlisting an army of 90 hungry goats to rove the grounds, making a meal of the problem plants.

The goats, who have no problem eating through acres and acres of every day, were hired on from Vegetation Management Solutions, a company specializing in using goats to tackle invasive plants. In fact, the nature center believes that the hardy munchers will get the job done in less than two weeks without even realizing they're working.

Using goats as emission-free mowers is catching on; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service regularly employ goats to clear vegetation, making short work of the job and leaving fertilizer for native plants in their wake. And that's nothing to bleat about.