GLEN JEAN, WV (WOAY)- Beginning Friday, September 7, visitors to Thurmond will be rewarded with the unusual sight of goats grazing on the hillside above this historic railroad town.
The National Park Service at New River Gorge National River is preparing to implement a plan to use goats to treat invasive plants at Thurmond.
Resource managers are experimenting with using an integrated pest management approach to treat non-native vegetation including Japanese knotweed, multiflora rose, and kudzu.
These invasive plants tend to take over an area, forcing out native species that wildlife depend upon. At Thurmond, kudzu also puts historic structures at risk and contributes to a heavier fuel load, thereby increasing the risk of fire danger.
In the past, resource management staff has used various approaches to removing non-native species in Thurmond including chemical treatment and mechanical removal, all with little success. Goats have proved to be effective at killing plants because they eat all the foliage, which then prompts the plant to use up stored energy in roots for new growth. Goats will then continuing eating the plant, stressing and weakening it until it can no longer survive. Goats also eat flowers, which ensures that the plant will not go to seed and seeds are destroyed when passed through their digestive system.
The goats will remain at Thurmond for approximately one month, or until they have depleted the foliage. This is part of a three year project, so they will return over the next two years. During this time the NPS will conduct research on the understory and shrub layer vegetation pre-grazing and post-grazing to see if there are significant effects of goat grazing on non-native invasive vegetation. Grazed areas will later be seeded with native grass and wildflowers at the end of the third year to promote the growth of native species.
The goats will be on loan from Green Goats, a company that has provided goats to the National Park Service in the past at Gateway National Recreation Area in New York, where they were used to remove plants that were damaging a Civil War gun battery. These “weapons of grass destruction” are retired dairy and 4H goats that now make their living eating unwanted vegetation.
Visitors are welcome to come down to Thurmond over the next month to see the goats in action.