The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2024-05-10/adoptable-poison-ivy-munching-goats-make-dramatic-return-to-butler-hike-and-bike-trail/

Adoptable Poison Ivy-Munching Goats Make Dramatic Return to Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail

They will be back

By Maggie Q. Thompson, May 10, 2024, News

If you ran into a herd of 150 goats at Lady Bird Lake in the last week, you haven’t lost your marbles. Austin’s beloved trail goats were back for one week of poison ivy pulverization. And just like that, they’re gone again, but they’ll be back for a longer tour of the trail in August.

The Trail Conservancy launched its goat-powered poison ivy management efforts last year, with a herd that underwent special training on respecting fence lines, staying together, and keeping focused. Since goats aren’t allergic to poison ivy like most humans and don’t damage trees and soil like machinery, they make for great poison ivy control.

The program was a hit, and now the herd is substantially funded by adoptive goat parents: For $20 a month, Austinites can “adopt” a poison ivy goat. All the goats are named and wear monogrammed earrings, so when an adopter commits to a yearlong adoption, the Trail Conservancy sends them a certificate with their goat’s name along with some “goat swag.” As of early May, 100 of 150 goats are already adopted, the Trail Conservancy’s Mandi Thomas told the Chronicle.

This week, the herd visited the southeast end of the Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Longhorn Shores, ending their work May 9. They had a lot to do. Rain this year resulted in more greenery, including poison ivy growth.

In 2023, the herd munched along the trail for 10 weeks and was able to clear more than 15.4 acres of poison ivy, Thomas said. After the goats left last year, the nonprofit brought in the Texas Conservation Corps to help manage the remaining vine stems left behind. Then a wave of volunteers swept through to replant the area.

Those interested in goat adoption can learn more at tinyurl.com/TrailGoats.

Copyright © 2024 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.