June 26, 2019 – West Bend, WI – Lac Lawrann Conservancy in West Bend has rented goats to help get rid of an invasive species within the 137-acre nature preserve.
“The goats are grazing on buckthorn,” said West Bend Parks, Rec, & Forestry Department Director, Craig Hoeppner. “Buckthorn basically takes over all the land and disallows all other plants and trees to grow. It comes up early in the spring and leaves late; it shades out everything.”
The goats were rented from a goats-for-hire company that helps safely rid invasive species. “It’s part of an overall grant from Southeast Wisconsin,” said Hoeppner. “It seems to be successful so far.”
The goats are safely fenced within a 6-acre area of the conservancy and it’s possible visitors could spot the goats, but should exercise caution because the fence is electric.
The goats were on site for about three weeks. There were about 41 goats and all were picked up Tuesday afternoon and transported back to their home in Poynette, WI.
Officials with Lac Lawrann said the goats made some progress however it was difficult to gauge their effectiveness since the buckthorn had grown to a point of being too tall and out of control.
Paul De Chant with Friends of Lac Lawrann added this note. The Friends of Lac Lawrann received a matching grant to fund this project. As the goats are raised they are exposed primarily to buckthorn and Russian olive and given a choice they will almost always feed on those invasives first.
That is why we monitored their feeding closely in the enclosure and moved them to another enclosure when those invasive plants were depleted. However, yes they will eat almost anything green, with some notable exceptions. (Skunk cabbage and cow parsnip for example.)
The 41 goats were very thorough and successful in their feeding habits and finished and were picked up a few days early. The goats are intended to return in early fall or next spring to repeat feeding in the same area.
Yes the “weeds” will re-sprout, but with the return of the goats, they will go after those invasives first again. In addition, it does make it much easier for our volunteers to go in and selectively remove those plants. If you have any further questions please feel free to contact me at Laclawrann.org
On a side note, according to the Friends of Lac Lawrann Conservancy website, the organization “took root in 1955 when the late Lawrence and Ann Maurin bought 20 acres of abused and neglected land near the heart of West Bend. Glaciers left the till and beautiful features, and the Maurins saw the property’s potential. They carried out their vision for the land’s future over the next 25 years. Lawrance and Ann planted thousands of trees, dredged a shallow lake to restore open water, and realized their goal of creating a wildlife sanctuary. In 1979, the Maurins donated their property to the West Bend Park, Recreation and Forestry Department with the stipulation that the land be managed and maintained as a conservancy.”
Today, the conservancy is 137 acres with “over 300 species of plants, over 200 species of birds, and a wide variety of mammals as well as reptiles and amphibians”. They also serve “5,000 visitors each year, including over 1,200 school children. Visitors participate in self-guided hiking and skiing, guided tours, special events, school field trips, and a variety of public programs for families and individuals of all ages.”