CALUMET TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WJMN) – If you’re out enjoying the Swedetown Trails, don’t be alarmed if you see 35 goats grazing around the area. The goats have been placed there to eat an invasive species called glossy buckthorn.
“I’ve been working with Swedetown since 2017, and then before me there was a coordinator that’s been working with Swedetown to tackle this glossy buckthorn problem that they have here and we have across well, a good chunk of the United States,” said Sigrid Resh, a research assistant professor at MTU and coordinator of Keweenaw Invasive Species Management Area (KISMA). “Glossy buckthorn’s an understory invasive, along with its partner common buckthorn. They’re Eurasian species. They come here they change the understory components of the forest, and they even hinder forest regeneration. And through time, they will become a monoculture. Absolutely changing the ecosystem parameters. Like what trees are going grow in the overstory in the future. And then what’s growing in the understory which impacts native insects and native birds.”
Resh helped KISMA receive a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service. These funds went towards hiring a business out of Wisconsin that rents out goats who specialize in invasive species control.
“They love it, it’s one of their favorite foods,” said Jake Williams, co-owner of Regenerative Ruminants. “There’s not a whole lot they won’t eat. They won’t eat the ferns actually. So, you’ll see when they’ve done in an area there’s a lot of ferns left, but otherwise they’d use pretty much everything they can reach. They’re going be here for a few weeks total, at least probably another 10 days. So we’re trying to cover up to eight acres and it’s kind of ultimately up to the goats how far they’ll get.”
The goats will be brought to Swedetown Trails each summer until 2026. From there, Resh will conduct her research on the effectiveness of the goats eating the Glossy buckthorn and any other potential impacts the grazing could have.
“They’re indiscriminate eaters of glossy buckthorn and so we want to make sure that the impact they’re having on the ecosystem is really focused on those highest density areas where the natives that were growing there were so suppressed by glossy buckthorn, they weren’t going to be doing well anyway,” said Resh. “So part of my project is to see how the ecosystem recovers and to buy the after the third year of browsing, we’ll definitely assess the situation and decide if there’s additional restoration that needs to happen in the form of planting seeds or even plugs of small trees and understory shrubs to get back the diversity that we want into this ecosystem that would be similar to the reference site that we’ve been studying.”
You can meet these goats Saturday, July 15 at Swedetown Trails in Calumet Township from 10 a.m. – noon, and 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.