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Goats employed to kill pesky plant

RENO — In an experiment with all-natural weed killers, 100 goats were due to arrive at a Northern Nevada lake Saturday to munch away at a noxious, pesky plant.

It’s the first time goats have been deployed in Washoe County to combat whitetop, a prolific weed considered the bad boy of the plant world, said Lynda Nelson, natural resources planner for the county’s Parks Department.

When it spreads, whitetop destroys all other plants, depriving wildlife of their former food source. It’s extremely difficult to kill. Unless you are a goat.

Goats prefer broadleaf plants such as whitetop over grass, said Becky Stout of the Nevada Land Conservancy, which obtained a $30,000 grant to put the goats to work at Swan Lake and to map the area. “It’s so much fun to watch them,” she said. “They love their job.”

The goats will munch across 20 acres at the lake through May 31. They’ll return in July to continue grazing, Nelson said.

Herders will keep the goats inside a portable electric fence, and a guard dog will protect them. Park visitors are being asked to keep their dogs on leashes while the goats graze.

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