Randy Ben David escorts his goats to their temporary home at Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary.

Alison L. Mead


Goats on a Boat

The Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation is now in its second season of using goats to clear invasive Asiatic bittersweet vines from Cedar Tree Neck. That decision was mostly a logistical one. “We were just brainstorming different ways to manage the neck because it’s really hard to access with machinery to mow,” said Kristen Fauteux, director of stewardship for Sheriff’s Meadow.

To get to the neck, you walk down a shade-dappled forest path, then cut across a stretch of sandy beach, then walk back uphill through low shrubbery. It’s about a mile in total, and not at all conducive to bringing in large plant-ripping machinery. But the bittersweet had to go. The plant chokes out everything beneath it, stifling natural growth and limiting biodiversity.

In came the goats. There are four this year, all Pygmy goats from Native Earth Teaching Farm (they are rented to Sheriff’s Meadow at a special nonprofit rate). And as was the case last year, they arrived in an unconventional method – via boat. That mile-long hike isn’t good for goats, either, but the small Pygmy breed is portable enough to be put in a crate and floated across Daggett’s Pond on a catamaran made of canoes.

The Native Earth goats live at Cedar Tree Neck from June until September, and are rotated through a four-acre plot of land. They’ve already cleared a sizable patch of bittersweet, are stripping bark from sumac trees, and have just started to eat the bayberry in their pens.

“They only escaped once, and it was just to go back into their shed,” Fauteux said.  

“They wouldn’t mind clearing until later,” said Gilbert, whose husband Randy Ben David is in charge of the boating process. Last winter, when the goats went to Aquinnah to do some land work eating branches and brambles, the property owners liked them so much they decided to get goats of their own.