Even the folks in New York City have figured out that animal impact – in this case ‘exotic’ goats – can better maintain open space than machinery or chemicals. This insight puts them ahead of Texas’ mainstream wildlife ‘managers’.
NOTE: This post initially appeared on NYTimes.com on May, 2016
To help restore a decrepit, overgrown area of Prospect Park in Brooklyn this summer, Larry and Anna Cihanek evaluated more than 150 candidates.
Ultimately, Olivia, a pushy young blonde; Diego, a good-natured loner; and six others were deemed perfect for the task: fit, eager and hungry for the job.
In fact, they have been known to eat about 20 percent of their body weight in a day.
They are goats.
Hired by the Prospect Park Alliance at $15,000 for the season, the eight-member herd will help restore a northeastern patch of the park known as the Vale of Cashmere, a dilapidated nook that looks as if it would be right at home at Grey Gardens.
Trees are still strewn about from a tornado in 2010. Damage remains from Hurricanes Irene in 2011 and Sandy in 2012. Difficult-to-remove English ivy, goutweed and poison ivy choke other vegetation.
Enter the goats, from Rhinebeck, N.Y., who will be moving to the big city this month to spend the late spring and summer in an enclosure at the site, where members of the public can visit them.
“They’re a bit like children,” said Mr. Cihanek, a goat herder and the tribe’s owner. “They will eat their favorite foods first, and one of their top foods is poison ivy. They love it.”
The Cihaneks’ goats, however, are not kids. Many are older milk goats rescued from the butcher.
It’s a win-win situation, said Sue Donoghue, president of the Prospect Park Alliance, which is also planning educational events with the herd.
Not only is it an ecological approach to restore the park, she said, but “we’re helping these goats further their careers.”
Our Circle Ranch goats are hilarious to watch and keep us in cabrito.