The weed-eating goats are on the way to Minneapolis parks.
About 80 goats — young goats and adult females — will be released Tuesday to munch on invasive plants, especially buckthorn, on a 6-acre parcel at Cedar Lake Regional Park. They will be there for 10 days before moving on to the northwest portion of Wirth Park in late July.
The Minneapolis Park Board hopes the hungry animals will be a good alternative to using glyphosate herbicides to treat invasive species. They are paying $33,000 for use of the goats. And the appeal of the new approach goes beyond battling buckthorn.
"People like goats," said Park Board Commissioner John Erwin, who proposed the change. "It's a place where parents might want to take their kids to see goats."
The goats were so attractive in St. Paul, where park officials have also hired them to eat invasive species, that one was kidnapped a few weeks back. (Gordy the goat was later found unharmed.)
In Minneapolis, the Park Board says it's taking extra safety measures to make sure the goats aren't stolen. The animals will be enclosed in a double fence, and staff from Diversity Landworks of La Crescent, Minn., which is renting goats to the Park Board, will be on site 24 hours a day.
Jake Langeslag, a "goat dispatcher" who supplies the animals in St. Paul, submitted a proposal for his goats' services in Minneapolis but was rejected because he wasn't able to supervise them 24 hours a day.
"We're goat wranglers," he said. "We're not a security company."
But he said goats will do a good job "eating buckthorns and a lot of the plants that are hard to manage with chemicals." So much so, he said, that keeping goats out too long can lead to overgrazing.
Three Rivers Park District in the western suburbs used goats last fall to control a wide variety of invasive species. But Paul Kortebein, senior manager of forestry and horticulture at the parks district, said the animals even devoured some native plants, prompting the need to replant.
"They weren't selective, they went about everything," Kortebein said.
The Minneapolis Park Board said it will lease the goats for a second grazing if it sees improvement in controlling buckthorn and other invasive plants.
"The ultimate goal here is to continue to reduce the amount of herbicides we use," said Jeremy Barrick, the Park Board's assistant superintendent of environmental stewardship. "If things work out really well, this could become a part of our method and means of controlling invasive species."