Wildlife preserve in Portsmouth tests out 'goatscaping' to control invasive plants

goats at hoffler creek wildlife preserve.jpg
sheep at hoffler creek wildlife preserve.jpg
Posted at 4:08 PM, Sep 28, 2021

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – The Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve in Portsmouth has decided to try “goatscaping.”

Staff at the preserve has hired a landscape company called RVA Goats, which is based in Richmond. A team of about 80 goats and sheep are helping to control the invasive wisteria that has taken over a couple of acres of the property.

“So, the English Ivy on the ground, the sheep are very effective at getting that… and then the goats are good at climbing and getting at some of these vines,” explained Kristi Orcutt, owner of RVA Goats.

Executive Director of Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve Ashley Morgan says this is the first time they’ve done this.

“About a year ago, we discovered that the vines in this area had really invaded the forest and taken down the canopy,” said Morgan.

She said they invited experts from the state forestry department and also city landscapers to look at the problem.

“Doing nothing is not an option because the invasive wisteria will continue to spread and continue to take down the native trees,” Morgan added.

Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve was established in 1997 and is a 142-acre urban wildlife preserve.

The owner of RVA Goats says her company is keeping busy, often hired by homeowners and business owners.

“We also get hired by cemeteries, especially African American cemeteriesthat are historically under-funded and under-managed,” described Orcutt. “I’ll send the goats in and within a week, I’m seeing these beautiful works of art, these stone markers.”

The University of Richmond is one of their next jobs, stated Orcutt. She added that the goats and sheep are used to clear streambeds and also to model and demonstrate sustainability for their ecology students.

Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve plans to use the goats and sheep through the end of the week. Morgan said the cost was covered by a grant through the Rotary Club of Portsmouth and the Southeast Virginia Community Foundation.

They hope to gain more human volunteers to help until they can rent out the goats again in spring.