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When Invasive Plants "Got Their Goat," New York Officials Hired A Herd

BUFFALO, NY (WBFO) - Meet Erie County's temporary hired help to take on an invasive plant removal pilot project. They come with four legs and a big appetite. And they're now truly eating away a big problem in Como Lake Park.

Since June 1, a half-dozen goats have been utilized along a creek bed at the Lancaster-based park, used to target and eat unwanted plants or brush that have overrun the waterway.

"Goatscaping. Yes, it's real and it's working from what we've seen already," said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who admitted even he in the beginning thought the idea seemed too strange to be true.

A month-long pilot project is now underway to use goats, from sunrise until sunset, to simply wander and eat the vegetation parks officials want removed. They'll even eat poison ivy, a plant which causes irritation to humans but is quite tasty to the hired help.

Among the plants park officials most want to remove are Japanese Knotweed.

"It's a very hardy invasive that spreads very quickly," explained Jen Zietler, owner of Let's Goat Buffalo, the company which owns the goats hired for the project.

Her company was founded in 2018 but Zeitler says the concept of goatscaping is not new, and has worked successfully in other cities. It's also safer for humans and wanted species, she further explained.

"When we spray with things like Roundup or other herbicides that have glyphosate in it, what we're doing is killing everything in its path. It's not selective," Zeitler said. "You also are hurting the native plants. You're not respecting the amphibian life, the bird life, bees and other nesting animals that would be within that area."

The pilot project will cover one acre of park space and cost $3,500, according to Parks Commissioner Dan Rizzo. He wouldn't mind animals taking up permanent residence within the park.

"I'd like to welcome animals back to the park," he said. "Back in 1926, when the county took the park over from the Town of Lancaster, there was an actual zoo in this park, a petting zoo. Over time it's gone away but it's nice to see animals back in the park, doing their natural thing."

The goats, during the length of the project, will be contained with the assistance of an electric fence and housed overnights in a trailer.