Minneapolis jumps on the goat train for fighting invasive species

A goat eats Buckthorn.
A goat eats Buckthorn, an invasive species, inside of Indian Mounds Regional Park in St. Paul. Minneapolis is hiring out a team of goats for itself.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

Goats are coming to Minneapolis on Tuesday to help control the spread of invasive plants.

For 10 days, 80 female goats and their kids will graze in an enclosed six-acre site near Cedar Lake East Beach. The city is paying $33,000 to Minnesota company Diversity Landworks to place the goats.

Kyle Johnson, the company's owner, said goats are a natural way to control invasive plants.

"It really makes sense to return animals to the landscape to defoliate those species and do it herbicide-free," Johnson said. "With enough defoliation, plants like buckthorn, multiflora rose and honeysuckle will just run out of carbohydrate reserves in their roots and die."

Minneapolis is bringing in the goats just two weeks after St. Paul hired a team of them for a similar gig. They started work at a park along the Mississippi River.

Using animals to manage land is a "lost practice," said Jeremy Barrick, assistant superintendent of environmental services on the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board.

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"Goats and sheep were used in the past to graze and manage turf areas, and now we're kind of coming back to that," Barrick said.

Two fences will enclose the goats: one to control grazing and ensure they're eating up invasive species, the other to prevent the public from touching and interacting with the animals.

"It's not a mobile petting zoo," Barrick said. "They're working animals for us. We want the public to be able to see that in action, of course, but just we want to keep the goats safe and undisturbed."

Minneapolis has plans to release another herd in the northwest area of Theodore Wirth Park in late July.