By Eric M. Johnson
(Reuters) - A crew of goats brought in to devour invasive plants at a popular park in Oregon's state capital, Salem, have been fired because they ate indiscriminately, cost nearly five times as much as human landscapers and smelled far worse, a city official said on Friday.
The 75 billy and nanny goats were supposed to eat Armenian blackberry and English ivy and other invasive plants choking native vegetation across the 9.1-acre Minto-Brown Island Park, the city's largest, in a pilot program last fall.
But the program ended in November after six weeks, and Salem has no plans to renew it, Keith Keever, the city's parks superintendent, said Friday.
The goats "had a barnyard aroma" and cost $20,719, including $4,203 for drinking water and a workers' toilet, and $2,560 for monitoring, city staff said in a report to the city council this week.
The cost was nearly five times the $4,245 for a normal parks maintenance man backed by a prison inmate work crew to do the job, the report said.
Rachel McCollum, owner of Yoder Goat Rentals, the company that supplied the goats, praised the work of the animals, adding: "The public response was very favorable."
While the goats were "almost universally welcomed by park users as a pleasant, pastoral addition to the scenery," they also greedily devoured native flora right along with invasive targets, choosing tasty maple and hazelnut trees. In one area, they ate all the leaves from blackberry stems but left the prickly bramble.
It is not the first time goats have been used as gasoline-free lawn-mowers. They have been used at Alphabet Inc's headquarters in Mountain View, California, and at the Historic Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
Keever did say that Salem is not ruling out using goats in the future for certain landscaping projects, such as maintaining steep hills.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Sharon Bernstein, Leslie Adler and Lisa Shumaker)