When the NJMC used goats to clear a neglected woodland in Rutherford in 2012 and 2013, a few eyes rolled. Now you can rent them on Amazon. But think about it – how did our ancestors maintain their lawns? Grazing. You can feed your livestock and manage your meadows at the same time. The great estates of Europe, with their elegant sweeping lawns, employed sheep and other grazers to keep their lawns manicured. They even wore shoes to prevent their hooves from damaging the turf.
But I digress. Rented goats are not a magic bullet for clearing overgrown lots – they cleared the 2-acre Rutherford lot of poison ivy, Japanese knotweed, and, to a lesser extent, phragmites in a couple of weeks. But they can only eat leaves and stems so the roots remain, which means the weeds grow back, though not as vigorously as before. Resident goats could keep down new growth as it emerges. The goats, of course, require fresh water and other care.
But consider this: the cost estimates to bring in a crew to hand-pull and spray with glyphosate (Round-up) were as high as $30,000. The goats cost less than $3500 for each visit. So you could hire goats for 8 years or spray one time. The goats would leave a lot of fertilizer as well.
“Scientists have successfully treated and released dozens of bats that had white-nose syndrome, an invasive fungal epidemic that’s wiping out some of North America’s most important insect-eaters. The fungal epidemic has killed about 6 million bats in 26 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces since 2006, pushing several species near the brink of extinction.”
Read more by Russell McLendon on Mother Nature Network here.
Muskrat trapping has been part of the meadowlands ecology for centuries. A hundred years ago, you could find 40 or 50 trappers active throughout the November-March season. Today that number may be as low as half a dozen.
In this week’s South Bergenite you can learn more from one of the last of the local trappers, in my first installment of Nature Next Door.
Conservationists know a lot about the Meadowlands and its recovering environment, but one of the missing pieces to the puzzle is an understanding of how many bats live in the Meadowlands, and where. Bats are key parts of New Jersey's eco-system, and they may be in peril because of something called "white-nose syndrome."Download New Jersey Bat fact sheet. Each year, the state, in conjunction with the Conserve Wildlife Foundation, recruits citizen scientists to take bat surveys statewide, and this year is a great year to include the Meadowlands. Do you know where bats are roosting in the Meadowlands? If so, you can help by taking two bat surveys at dusk between now and mid-August.
This guy was near the walkway across from the first visitors parking lot one afternoon at DeKorte last week, totally oblivious of humans. Just wanted to help cut the grass, apparently. Muskrats were once a prime target for trappers in the Meadowlands. We will post some of their stories on our upcoming oral history blog. More on Muskrats in this region here.
For a look at an old newspaper clipping about Muskrat hunting in the Meadowlands, click immediately below.
This video features a woodchuck looking out of its den on a path in DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst, when Junior butts in. For more information on this abundant Meadowlands mammal, click here. Note: I realize that it is a bad idea to take hang out in front of birds’ nests or mammals’ dens in an effort to get a family portrait. The animals feel threatened and cannot escape.
For this video, I used a trick I learned minutes earlier from a professional cameraman: You put the video-cam on a tripod not too far from entrance, hit "record," and walk away.
Later on, you come back, retrieve the camera and see what you caught on video. 🙂