Ecologists deploy goats to eat buckthorn on Miss. River bluffs

Goats on the Hay Creek area trails near Red Wing chow down on buckthorn. The animals are part of a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources project to stop the spread of the invasive plants in the area.
Photo courtesy of the Minn. Dept. of Natural Resources

It's buckthorn for breakfast for a herd of goats in Rosemount.

Goats will begin chomping the invasive shrubbery at the Flint Hills Resources crude oil refinery for two weeks starting Friday as part of a Mississippi River bluffs habitat restoration program.

Why goats? Workers sprayed buckthorn with herbicide a few years ago, but the stubborn plants are making a comeback.

"We're going to sow some native grass seed under their hooves," said Wiley Buck, a restoration ecologist with the nonprofit group Great River Greening.

"One thing they'll do while they're bouncing around eating buckthorn is they'll work this seed into the ground. Otherwise it would be pretty labor-intensive to go around and rake it in."

The long-term goal is to restore the bluff land to oak forest with prairie openings and some swamp wetlands.

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