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Hungry, hungry goats

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Crumple takes a big bite on his first day in Prospect Park in Hudson. Crumple and other goats from The Munch Bunch will spend a month eating the invasive buckthorn in the park. Rebecca Mariscal / RiverTown Multimedia 2 / 4
The Munch Bunch goats dove right into grazing on vegetation at Prospect Park. Over the summer the group will clear almost 8 acres of buckthorn. Rebecca Mariscal / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 4
Adam samples some of the vegetation in the newly sectioned-off area of Prospect Park. The use of goats is becoming more popular as a way to address invasive plants. Rebecca Mariscal / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 4

Hudson's newest employees wasted no timing digging their teeth into their work Friday morning.

A herd of 11 goats from The Munch Bunch were released into a fenced off area of Prospect Park, the start of the city's new effort to combat invasive buckthorn in the area.

Together they'll clear more than 7 acres, staying first for about 30 days through June and then coming back again for another 30 or more days in August, said Munch Bunch owners Dan and Allysse Sorensen. Rough estimates show 30 goats can clear an acre in five to seven days.

The goats will take up full-time residence for the length of their stay, with the plants they clear serving as their main food source. They'll also have plenty of water to get them through the hot days.

Their location will change as they eat their way through the designated park area, and more goats may be brought in as needed. Allysse Sorensen said the most the park will see is 30.

The partnership works well on both sides. The goats love eating the buckthorn, which the Sorensens said is one of their favorites, and the city clears an invasive species in a more natural way.

Parks Director Tom Zeuli said the city tries to use herbicides and pesticides as little as possible, and the goats provide a more natural solution for the growing buckthorn issue.

"It's part of the environmental balance that we're trying to use less chemicals," Zeuli said.

The invasive buckthorn beats out native species, deteriorating the nutrients in the soil and nearby root systems. It also produces berries that affect the digestive system of migrating birds that pass through Hudson, a designated bird city.

Zeuli hopes clearing the buckthorn will open up the area of the park for more public access.

Using goats for tasks like this is a growing trend, the Sorensens said. The goats can get to places that people and machines can't, like hillsides.

"It's more natural, it's chemical free so there's no harm to the native plants," Dan Sorensen said.

They work with a wide variety of customers, from individual residents to the DNR.

Zeuli had seen the goats used before, but the push for their use in Hudson came after residents Roy and Lana Sjoberg tried it.

"They were the pioneers," Dan Sorensen said.

Dan and Allysse Sorensen first became interested in a business like this while working on goat dairy farms in Sweden. Allysse fell in love with the animals, and wanted to continue working with them when they returned to the U.S.

"We felt that this fit really well with our environmental values," Allysse Sorensen said.

Rebecca Mariscal

Rebecca Mariscal joined the Hudson Star Observer as a reporter in 2016. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in communication and journalism. 

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