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Goats get to work

Staff photo by Fritz Busch Fifty-nine goats from Goat Dispatch goat rental go to work eating invasive and undesirable plants at Flandrau State Park Thursday afternoon. The goats are expected to stay behind an electric fence for about a month at the park.

NEW ULM — Fifty-nine goats raced out of a long trailer and into a hilly, wooded area secured by an electric, mesh fence at Flandrau State Park Thursday afternoon.

Goats will eat and control invasive plants for about a month on about 22 acres of the northern edge of the park. The goats will be separated by the fence from a trail with steep stairs that climb the scenic trail that connects with Indian Point Drive.

It is hoped the goats will browse and control troublesome plants like common buckthorn, garlic mustard and dame’s rocket, a colorful, light purple, Eurasian perennial, herbaceous plant in the mustard family.

In addition, goats love to eat poison ivy and thistles often ignored by other animals.

“We plan to restore some of the hilly land to native prairie,” said Flandrau Assistant Site Supervisor Maureen Ziskovsky. “It’s such a difficult area to access and mow. We can’t safely get equipment on the hillsides to control the invasive plants.”

The goats will be cared for, watered and regularly checked by the contracting goat herder, Jake Langeslag of Faribault-based Goat Dispatch. A guard donkey or llama may be present to protect the goats from other animals.

Some trails may need to be temporarily closed while goats are in the area. Park visitors are asked to respect fences and signage that designates temporary trail closures.

Visitors are reminded to keep pets on-leash at all times and not allow pets to chase the goats. People should not approach the goats either.

Park visitors should ensure their belongings and pets are free of mud and plant debris with cleaning tools like hand brooms and boot brushes. Plant debris and weed seeds should be disposed of in the trash.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Buildings and Grounds Maintenance employee Allison Ellstrom said a number of park trails are closed or under water while the nearby Cottonwood River remains above flood stage.

“Park trails start to flood when the river level at New Ulm is at 12 feet,” Ellstrom said. “We were lucky this spring. So far, the river didn’t flood the swimming pond. An ice jam created a high water situation, but the ice broke before water got into the pond.”

Ellstrom said park trails have a number of washouts and fast-moving water.

Park projects include reshingling the beach house roof.

“We’re cleaning up trails we can get to. If some trails are flooded, we may have to do reroutes. We hope to turn on water outlets by May 1. We hope to have the swimming pond open by May 31,” Ellstrom said.

For more information, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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