‘They’re Baaaaack’: Goats Brought to NYC Park to Munch on Invasive Species

goats in new york city

Two dozen goats were brought into a New York City park for the second annual “Running of the Goats,” an event where the animals help remove invasive plant species by grazing.

The project is organized by Riverside Park Conservancy and began in 2019, according to Green Matters. The goats were brought to Riverside Park in the Upper West Side to eat whatever they want, including pesky plant species, keeping the goats and the park goers happy.

“I don’t think I’ve seen anything more random than this,” Meera Sitaram of the Upper West Side said to The New York Times.

The Riverside Park Conservancy has been trying to control species like porcelain berry, English ivy, mugwort, multiflora rose and poison ivy, as reported by The Washington Post.

It may seem odd that goats are consuming poison ivy, but it’s completely safe for them, as they’re immune to the allergens, Jean-Marie Luginbuhl, professor of crop science and animal science at North Carolina State University said to NPR.

The idea to bring in goats to eat weeds and other invasive species came to fruition because the Riverside Park Conservancy has been struggling to maintain the area for the past 15 years, according to The New York Times.

children pet goats in nyc park

The view seen during the second-ever Running of the Goats at Riverside Park on July 14, 2021 in New York City. Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for Riverside Park Conservancy

“The site is on a really steep hill, and it’s very difficult to access,” Lynda Tower, vice president for the Riverside Park Conservancy group said to The New York Times. “We have volunteers come clear the species, and it comes back like three weeks later. It’s hard to do plantings. It’s hard to diversify the site. We finally realized that we were fighting a losing battle and maybe we needed some reinforcements. Hence the goats.”

The goats also aid the effort to avoid using herbicides, which can harm the environment, according to Green Matters.

Crowds watched and sang “The Lonely Goatherd” from “The Sound of Music” as the goats were released into the park on Wednesday morning, according to The Washington Post. Most of the 24 goats left that same day, but five goats got to stay to compete for the greatest of all time (GOAT) for another six weeks, according to PIX 11.

goats and crowds in nyc park

Goats are seen running during the second-ever Running of the Goats at Riverside Park on July 14, 2021 in New York City. Arturo Holmes / Getty Images for Riverside Park Conservancy

The five who get to stay and graze at the NYC park are named Skittles, Mallemar, Miss Bo Peep, Chalupa and Buckles, according to PIX 11.

New Yorkers get to vote for their favorite of the five using ranked voting, according to The New York Times.

President and CEO of Riverside Park Conservancy, Dan Garodnick, encouraged New Yorkers to watch the goats in action before casting their votes, as reported by Green Matters.

“The GOAT will be crowned without any confusion or controversy by the end of the summer,” Garodnick said on Riverside Conservancy Park’s website. “We encourage New Yorkers to come meet the “Fabulous Five” in person and to pay attention to our social media channels as the goats roll out their platforms.”

Audrey Nakagawa is the content creator intern at EcoWatch. She is a senior at James Madison University studying Media, Art, and Design, with a concentration in journalism. She’s a reporter for The Breeze in the culture section and writes features on Harrisonburg artists, album reviews, and topics related to mental health and the environment. She was also a contributor for Virginia Reports where she reported on the impact that COVID-19 had on college students.

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