by Joe Schwartz
There are some awfully strange looking dogs out at the Hank Anderson III Community Park in Carrboro these days. Well, they're not actually dogs. More like goats really, and they're spending today and Wednesday at the dog park chowing down on poison ivy. Why? It's quite simple really.
The Carrboro Parks and Recreation Department received complaints that the overgrown woody vine adorning the fence line was being transported from dog fur to owner skin. Rather than subjecting residents to rashes, Carrboro officials found their solution in goats, which love the taste of some good poison ivy for breakfast lunch and dinner.
"They have a handful of things (sweet gum, honeysuckle and wild grape) but in the top 10, poison ivy is definitely up there," said Alix Bowman, owner of the Bull City-based Goat Patrol. "Typically an adult goat can eat 5 to 8 pounds a day. My goats, roughly depending on how high the plants are, can clear 1,000 square feet a day."
Bowman and her 16-member goat gang, including, of course, Buster, Magnus, Genghis, Nimoy and Mr. Pickles, are tasked with beating back the plants to a manageable level before chemicals come in to finish the job at the park, located off of N.C. Highway 54.
It's a win-win. The goats meet Carrboro's goal of using the least toxic method possible (no gas needed here), and they take away the hazard of exposing humans to the poisonous plants.
So far, Bowman says the goats and dogs have been getting along just fine. She trains her animals to be accustomed to canines. The goats momentarily fascinate the dogs, at least until the fidos move on to other dogs or sticks. Plus, the goats are bound by an electric fence, just in case.
And, have no fear; these goats are local and well documented. Bowman gets most of them from Creedmoor with a few coming from the Animal Protection Society of Durham. She says the group could grow, noting that she gets frequent calls from people looking for a good home for their goat.
That's a good thing because she could use the extra mouths to feed.
The business started just a year ago and already she's received inquiries from the Town of Chapel Hill and Duke University for projects. Most of her clients are residential given the herd size now. Rates start at $225 a project for a small yard.
To her knowledge, Bowman is the only official goat-based weed removal business in the Triangle, but the practice has long been used in Texas, Washington and Oregon.
With that in mind, Carrboro is hoping these animals can be heroes and goats at the same time.