‘Eco-herd’ of goats to be deployed at Toronto park as part of pilot project

Goats are the answer as the Don Valley Brick Works Park looks to prescribed grazing to address invasive plants and unwanted vegetation in a two day pilot project. CityNews speaks with the experts ... and the kids.

For anyone passing by a downtown Toronto park on Tuesday and Wednesday, expect to see an unusual group of landscapers being deployed to help combat invasive plants: an “eco-herd” of goats.

City of Toronto officials said there will be a “prescribed grazing” of woody and invasive plant species at Don Valley Brick Works Park, located off Bayview Avenue and west of Pottery Road.

They said it’s part of a pilot project that assesses the viability of using goats as a management tool for maintaining urban meadows by reducing and removing invasive plants.

“Historically, grazing animals have shaped and maintained prairie and meadow ecosystems as they evolved together,” municipal officials said on the pilot project website.

“These large historical herds exerted pressure on the landscape and influenced the species that grew along with the soil ecology. They brought nutrients to the soil through their wastes, reduced woody growth, and enhanced seed germination as their hooves disturbed the surface.”

Other jurisdictions and individuals in North America have turned to goats in an effort to combat invasive plants.

The kiko goats coming to the downtown Toronto park are being supplied by Goats in the City Inc., which is based in King City, Ont. Officials said the goats are used solely for prescribed grazing and aren’t used for any other purposes such as food or milk.

They added fencing, water and temporary shelter will be in place, and there will be continuous monitoring by the company and municipal staff.

A non-profit organization called Toronto Field Naturalists along with municipal staff will monitor a wild area and a control area in 2024 to assess the viability of using goats for ecosystem maintenance. Regular photo documentation will occur throughout the year too, officials noted.

The cost of the pilot project and the anticipated release date of the results weren’t immediately clear.

For anyone interested in learning about the project, there will be educational talks at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on the days the goats will be present. The educational sessions are on a first-come, first-served basis and are weather-dependent. The goats can also be seen at public viewing areas between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Click here for more information.

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