This past summer and fall, Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park employed some four-legged partners to help get rid of invasive plants in the Park. Fifteen goats were hired as part of a partnership between Chimney Rock Management, LLC; NC State Parks; the Weed Action Coalition of Hickory Nut Gorge (WAC-HNG) and the Friends of Chimney Rock State Park as an ecologically-friendly way to keep invasives such as such as Kudzu, Princess Tree and Oriental bittersweet at bay.

Visitors to the Park were able to see the goats hard at work on the mountainside above the gravel parking area located just before the top parking lot. Our furry friends worked for about one month this past summer, clearing out a two-acre swath of land near the top of the mountain that was a tangled mess of weeds and invasives and returned in mid-September to munch for nearly three more weeks. WAC-HNG will spot-treat the area with herbicide in late spring or early summer of 2016.

“Using livestock to control non-native invasive plants is an ecologically-friendly and cost-effective measure,” says David Lee, WAC-HNG Hickory Nut Gorge Steward, who coordinates invasive species management for the group. No machinery needs to be used, and little to no herbicide is needed.”

“We’re always working to remove invasive plants from the Park,” adds Mary Jaeger-Gale, Chimney Rock Management, LLC General Manager. “Invasives increase the chance of erosion and landslides, decrease food supply for birds and other wildlife, limit access to recreational use and are an eyesore. Goats love the woody-stemmed vegetation found on the mountainsides of the Gorge, their body sizes makes for a light footprint and they aerate and fertilize the soil as they work, which encourages the growth of natural plants in the spring. Using goats to control invasives is a perfect fit with the Park’s goal of sustaining our land in the most ecologically-friendly way possible.”

WAC-HNG offers an adopt-a-goat program in which they contract with local business who “rent” out their goats for invasive control throughout Hickory Nut Gorge. For more information, contact them at 828-625-9983, ext. 506.