Contrary to popular belief, goats do not selectively eat non-native plants. They eat everything! This creates a challenge but also an opportunity. Because goats generally strip an area of vegetation, they are good to use in places where complete removal of all above-ground plant material is the goal, as in the beginning phase of this restoration project.
Another challenge when using goats for site preparation is that they can easily over-graze an area if they aren’t carefully and actively managed, threatening natural plant communities and causing erosion. That’s why these goats were carefully managed and cared for by a human handler, as well as protected by dogs. Although these animals may like what they do, they were there to work, which is why people were encouraged only to admire the goats from a distance and not come close. IRC took other steps, such as utilizing a movable fence, to reduce risk to surrounding habitat and to maximize the goats’ effectiveness in preparing the site for restoration.
Although the site may look cleared, the soil is still full of invasive seeds. It may take several years of grazing before the area is ready for the next phase of restoration, so there is a good chance you will see the goats again next year. The project in Bommer Meadow will ultimately lead to a healthier, more interconnected, fire-resilient ecosystem capable of supporting more wildlife.