‘They’ll Chew Down Everything’: The Goats Are Back at the New Canaan Nature Center


The goats at the New Canaan Nature Center. Credit: Tahlia Scherer

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Invasive plant species here in New Canaan have met their match … goats!

For the second straight summer, the New Canaan Nature Center has introduced goats to help combat invasive plant species in a chemical-free manner.

The goats are sourced from a company out of Rhinebeck, N.Y., according to the executive director of the New Canaan Nature Center, Bill Flynn. 

The goats’ area at the New Canaan Nature Center. Credit: Tahlia Scherer

“[The company] does this all over the Northeast,” he said. “They rent [the goats] out who do their work, and then they go back.”

The goats are used primarily to remove an invasive plant called Japanese Knotweed. However, the goats can’t actually differentiate between different plants, so ultimately, they just eat everything in sight.

“They don’t pick and choose,” Flynn said. “They have their favorite plants. It’s kind of like the equivalent of if they had chips and candy and burgers – stuff that they’ll eat all that first. Once that’s gone, they’ll move on to the rest.”

The goats clear large swaths of area, leaving ample soil for the growth of plants native to New Canaan. (Irwin Park had goats in the summer up until three years ago.)

“They’ll chew down everything and then we have to come back in and plant good stuff,” Flynn said. “It’s a way that we can combat [invasive species] without using chemicals to dump on the ground,” Flynn said. He said that the Nature Center is looking to plant maple trees in the place of invasive species in the future. 

As Flynn guided this reporter across the Nature Center’s luscious green fields toward a shady area covered with tall plants, four goats could be seen resting in the shade – a peculiar sight here in New Canaan. When approached, the goats were immediately friendly, hoping to get a pat on the head. They stuck their hooves in the wired fence, attempting to get closer for some attention. 

For those who would like to check out the goats themselves, they can visit the multiple areas around the Nature Center. 

“You can park down at the parking lot and if you are lost, you can always check in the Visitors Center,” Flynn said. “We can guide you, but if you go up towards the apple orchard, you’ll see them. 

Using natural methods to remove invasive species helps to foster more environmentally conscious ways to improve New Canaan.

“Being an educational facility, we are excited trying to find methods and educate the public on different ways to combat invasive species than using something like Roundup,” Flynn said. “It’s about educating the public and getting them to think about this in a different way.”

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