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Nubian Goats Return to Clear Brush at Fort Hancock

“It’s sort of a wise crack but we use what nature provides to take away what nature

Larry Cihanek and a Nubian Goat. (photo credit to

provides too much of”

That’s how Larry Cihanek, owner of of Rhinebeck New York, describes his business of eight years. He says they now have 140 mostly Nubian Goats that they deploy to large park areas, cemeteries and historic sites to eat poison ivy and other invasive plants that are hard to reach by machinery.

Cihanek has been at the Sandy Hook, Gateway National Recreation Area, for several days preparing an area at the historic Fort Hancock, a preserved military base. He said the goats will be basically chomping away at anything green at the 6-acre mortar battery site.

“It was built for the late 18-hundreds to launch 6 and 700 pound shells in the New York Harbor at enemy ships,” said Cihanek.

This isn’t the first time Cihanek or his goats made the trek to Fort Hancock. was hired last year to clear the same 6-acre site and said there was probably the heaviest concentration of poison ivy that he’s seen anywhere. However, he said the goats did a good job eating away the brush last year, eating plants in such a way that it prevents growth the next year.

“I just walked the site and I think we have only about 15% poison ivy as we did last year and the overall vegetation is down to about 40 to 50%.”

The goal of the nonprofit Sandy Hook Foundation is to restore the mortar battery site.

“Their objective is to bring it back as near as possible to the original sound mound. Maybe they’ll leave some decent trees, some interesting trees,” said Cihanek.

Using goats to clear the brush is also more environmentally friendly than using chemicals and more cost effective than cost effective too. Cihanek said they recently had a New York State Agency look at their price for clearing 6 acres out on Long Island.

“We were one-third the cost of herbicide and one-sixth the price of mechanical means.”

He says the twenty goats eat about 20% of their body weight in foliage a day and he estimates that the mortar battery side will be cleared by mid-September.

Goats heading for oats, (Photo Credit to

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