There are several ways to get rid of invasive plants. There are herbicides. There are weed wrenches. There’s the option of simply yanking them from the ground.
And there are goats.
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy opted for goats to handle the invasive plants at Clayton Hill in Frick Park. This year will mark the third consecutive year the grazers have been deployed to Frick Park to battle invasive plants, said Philip Gruszka, director of horticulture and forestry for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.
The city has employed goats for similar purposes in the past. While it may sound unconventional, Gruszka said the practice of using goats has been around for years.
“They’re a great management tool for controlling invasive plants,” Gruszka said.
Allegheny GoatScape, a local nonprofit previously known as Steel City Grazers, will bring the goats next week. They’ll be in the park for about a month.
The herd visiting Frick Park consists of 11 goats and a miniature donkey named Hobo, said Allegheny GoatScape founder and Executive Director Gavin Deming.
“Goats are ideal, because they eat nearly everything. What’s really wonderful is that goats have a voracious appetite. Their palate is pretty broad, so they can be eating a lot of the common invasive species,” Deming said.
The site the goats are focusing on was enveloped in bush honeysuckle, which was “choking out the woods,” Gruszka said. The goats will help rid the park of that and other non-native invasive plants that are competing with native plantlife.
Past years have already proved the goats are doing a good job, Deming said.
“Having worked in Frick Park, it’s been amazing to see, between years one and two, with honeysuckle particularly, the regrowth was extremely minimal,” he said.
It’s a big job.
Gruszka said non-native plants are often tenacious and spread quickly, making it harder for native plants to compete.
“Quite often, with these non-native invasive species, they came to the Pittsburgh area without the insects and diseases that keep them in check in their home country, so they don’t really have anything that controls them,” Gruszka explained. “If we don’t control it, they outcompete our native vegetation. We need to be there, intervening with a natural process to give our native species a chance.”
The goal, Gruszka said, is to bring in native plants once the goats are finished.
Visitors to Frick Park will be able to watch the goats at work, Deming said. There will be signs explaining the project and the area will be protected by an electric fence within an orange construction fence.
“They’re fun to watch,” he said. “It’s like having a little zoo in our park.”
Gruszka urged people to also educate themselves about non-native invasive plants and insects. For more information, visit the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy website.
Julia Felton is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Julia at 724-226-7724, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .