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Goats Munch Their Way Through Invasive Plants In Webster Groves

Wayne Pratt
St. Louis Public Radio
Around 40 goats have spent a week eating through nonnative vegetation in Webster Groves.

An environmentally friendly experiment involving goats eating nonnative plants wraps up this week in Webster Groves.

About 40 goats have been eating plants like wintercreeper and honeysuckle on a hill near Elm and Kirkham avenues since the pilot project started last week. The grazing has prompted drivers to slow down and families to walk along the side of the road to get a better view.

"I think the goats are just wonderful,” said Webster Groves resident Bernita Forrest, who has come to see the animals several times over the past week. “They have done such great work with the hill up here. It's just a good thing.”

Wayne Pratt
St. Louis Public Radio
The goats prefer to rest in the heat, but Webster Groves officials say they could be helpful on hills and other hard-to-reach areas.

The goats are helping Webster Groves in the battle against invasive plants. If the experiment goes well, the city could use the animals again in several areas, said Parks and Recreation Director Scott Davis.

“We would use them strategically,” he said. “Even if we don’t get grants, it may be something we would still do on a limited basis.”

The city has volunteers helping with plant removal, but the costs add up with related staff and equipment like chippers and chainsaws. The goats could eventually be easier on the bottom line as well as the environment.

Still, letting the goats roam is not cheap. They cost around $1,000 an acre.

Even with the upfront cost, Davis said it’s worthwhile to have the animals as an option to control nonnative plant growth.

“It might be money well-saved versus the labor power to do it with human mitigation,” he said.

Davis said staff members brought the idea to his attention. Goats have been used to control nonnative plants in other parts of Missouri, including Mark Twain National Forest.

Wayne is the morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.

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