In 2018, nine goats from Mulberry Lane Farm in Hilbert arrived at 1000 Islands Nature Center with the purpose of browsing invasive plant species. Invasive plant species on the property harm native species by using resources and creating competition. The largest problem on the property is buckthorn, due to its long growing season and the plant’s broad leaves that create ground-level shade. Because of this, new seedlings of native plant species are unable to mature and the invasive species continue to spread.
Since that first browsing in 2018, we have been repeating our efforts in the spring and fall to continually cut back the invasive plants, giving our native plants a change to compete for space. The goats will be returning to 1000 Islands from June 14th through June 25th in order to continue browsing. The goats will periodically return in order to manage the invasive plant species until the issue is resolved. The goats are used as a method of biological control in order to defoliate the invasive species. As the plants are continually defoliated, their roots will lack nutrients that typically allow them to produce new shoots.
While other methods of control are available, they come with risks that could result in more harm than good being done. Because of 1000 Islands’ location along the Fox River, using chemical control could contaminate the Fox River ecosystem as well as other native plant species. Mechanical control is a means of removing each plant by hand, which is both timely and costly. For these reasons, staff at 1000 Islands believe that the goats could offer an effective alternative to safely remove the invasive species.
1000 Islands hopes that the goat project will bring awareness to the impact of invasive species on our native habitats as well as bring community members to the Nature Center. Community members and families are able to sign up to be official “goat watchers” in order to monitor the goat behavior. Sign-ups will be available starting June 1st. You can also support the project by ordering a “Goat Team” T-Shirt or sweatshirt. Click here to order your 1000 Islands Goat Team apparel. Online orders will close on May 24 at 11:59 PM and will be available for pick-up at 1000 Islands in June. Goat Watcher Volunteer sign-up will begin on June 1st. Watch our website or Facebook page for more information.