Goats defending New Jersey historic site from poison ivy

SANDY HOOK, N.J. - July 24, 2013

And when the problem is acres of poison ivy, the answer might be found in what you might call natural technology.

That's exactly what's happening in Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

A herd of Nubian goats is munching away in the woods at the Army's old Fort Hancock.

These animals are leading the battle to rid roughly 6 acres of property of poison ivy that's grown unchecked for about 40 years.

"Besides giving you a nice itch, it actually can get to the point where people can get very, very ill from it," said park manager Pete McCarthy. "So we were looking for an alternative was to remove the poison ivy."

"This is the highest concentration of poison ivy I've ever seen," said Larry Cihanek.

Cihanek is renting the goats to the fort and says while most humans coming in contact with this amount of poison ivy would wind up with an itchy, red rash, it doesn't bother the goats. In fact, they can't get enough of it.

"I haven't figured out if it's their favorite food or it's just one of the top four," he said. "They love it. They don't react to it."

To keep the goats contained, an electric fence has been put up around the area where they're working - if you call it work!

And forget about petting them. The goats are covered in the poisonous oil that gives people that itchy reaction.

"Poison ivy is a pretty insidious thing," said Cihanek. "It sticks with whatever it's on, and if you're prone to catch it, you will."

The goats are a hit with park visitors who think having them eat their way through this forest of poison ivy is a great idea.

"It's kind of ingenious," said Shannon Cassaro of Port Monmouth, N.J. "Instead of having people go in there where they don't want to be, have the goats. It's kind of a win-win situation.

The park manager says he can see already the goats are making a difference – these so-called 'weapons of grass destruction' now pigging out on acres of poison ivy.

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