On a sweltering afternoon on Staten Island, the New York City parks department unveiled its latest weapon in the war on phragmites, an invasive weed that chokes the shoreline: goats. Twenty Anglo-Nubians, to be exact. With names like Mozart, Haydn and Van Goat, and with floppy ears and plaintive bleats, they did not seem fearsome. But on Thursday they were already munching inexorably through the long pale leaves in the first phase of a wetland restoration at what will soon be Freshkills Park.
Known for their unending, indiscriminate appetites, the goats are being rented by the city for the next six weeks from a farmer in the Hudson Valley. Parks officials are counting on the goats to clear the phragmites across two acres of wetlands that will eventually be cultivated with native grasses like spartina and black needle rush. The hope is that the goats will weaken the phragmites, setting the stage for another series of assaults on their stubborn rhizomes — applying herbicide, scarifying the earth and laying down sand….
“I’m not a big fan of goats,” said Bernd Blossey, an associate professor of natural resources at Cornell University.
Unlike natural-resources professor Bernd Blossey, I am a big fan of goats. Look at this goat:
Here’s something you might not know about goats: In addition to being obviously awesome and hilarious, goats are one of the domestic species that most quickly adapts to feral life. The Wikipedia says that among domestic animals, only cats can revert to the wild as swiftly as goats. In fact, that goat photo you see above is a feral goat in Aruba. Australia, apparently, has a big-time feral goat problem.
So while I mean no offense to Staten Islanders here, and while in principle the idea to turn that massive Staten Island landfill into something called Freshkills Park seems like a noble one, I’m definitely, definitely rooting for a mishap wherein several of the goats get loose, then live off the fat of the garbage, mate, and ultimately wrest Staten Island from the hands of the Wu-Tang Clan.
The Garbage Goats of Staten Island, running loose on the street, butting heads with locals, eating up prized shrubberies, saying “meh.”
Also, Van Goat is the best name for a goat.