Friday, September 27, 2013

Milwaukee nature center hires goats for cleanup job

MILWAUKEE - Schlitz Audubon Nature Center has temporarily welcomed a herd of 90 goats to the center’s 185 acres.
When goats are placed on a small acreage in high numbers, they cause a feeding frenzy. They'll chomp on invasive species like Buckthorn and Honeysuckle. The reason they're invasive is because ecologists describe them a lot like weeds - they grow quicker, higher and wider than native flowers and deter birds from nesting there.
“Goats are very hungry critters and they are here feeding on invasive plans, like buckthorn which for us is public enemy number one around here,” said Nathan Smallwood, director of the nature center. “It’s a plant that doesn’t belong and can spread like wildfire. So they are here helping us clear that out to help us restore those properties to the kinds of habitats that actually belong here.”

With invasive woody shrubs, depending on the age class and height at the time of initial grazing, it can take multiple grazing episodes over two to five years to exhaust the root supply and ultimately kill it.
Still, Audubon's groundskeepers say it's cheaper and more environmentally friendly than other options, like using lawn mowers.
The goats will be at the center for around 10 days. The public can visit the goats, but Smallwood said it’s not a petting zoo opportunity.
If you are planning a visit to hike the trails and observe the goats, please stop by the front desk for up-to-date information on the goats.

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