Operation Goat Munch Launches in Haddon Township’s Saddler’s Woods

Magi Liebe of the Haddon Township Environmental Commission at Operation Goat Munch
Magi Liebe of the Haddon Township Environmental Commission and the Saddler’s Woods Conservation Association waves a welcome from the ticket tent to the arriving crowds at the May 21, 2022 launch of Operation Goat Munch at the Township’s 25-acre nature preserve. Behind, another station manned by volunteer Shameem Gaj offers an array of informational materials about the history of urban woodland area named after the early 19th-century fugitive slave who took refuge there.
A goat wanders the trails of Saddler's Woods in Haddon Township
Operation Goat Munch brought in 40 goats that will spend ten days eating their way through a large fenced off section of the woods where invasive plants like English Ivy, poison ivy, Japanese knotweed, and mugwort have completely smothered the native ground cover. Above, one of the just-arrived goats from Green Goats of Rhinebeck, NY, wanders a trail in search of a succulent lunch.
One of the goats in Operation Goat Munch at Saddler's Woods in Haddon Township
The ground cover thicket is heavily laced through with poison ivy — a fact that has prevented volunteers from manually wading into the tangle to manually rip and cut out the destructive plants. Goats, as it turns out, are not affected by poison ivy and like its taste.
Poison ivy warning signs at Saddler's Woods in Haddon Township
One idea of Operation Goat Munch is that if the goats eat away enough of the poison ivy, volunteers will be able to work to manually remove unwanted plants and replace them with native growth. However, warning signs noted that after gorging on poison ivy, the goats retain its irritant liquid compounds on their muzzles and hair.
Visitors wearing goat horn head bands at a Haddon Township, NJ, nature center
In the lighthearted spirit of the Operation Goat Munch event, goat horn headbands were the de rigueur fashion accessory of the day. Groups of visitors walked the trails outside the goat fence, stopping at docent stations where the forest’s history, flora and fauna were explained.
Saddler's Woods visitors taking selfies with a visiting goat herd
The temporary fencing encircles about a quarter of the woodland’s entire area and, being used to interactions with humans, the arriving retired milking goats made themselves available for selfies.
Goats deep in the forest at Saddler's Woods in Haddon Township, NJ
As the day wore on, the Operation Goat Munch herd began venturing into the deeper sections of forest, seeking shade in the heat of the 95-degree day.
Close up of a goat eating forest foliage
And, they got down to business and began eating away at the targeted plants.
A goat pen at Saddler's Woods in Haddon Township, NJ, feature a young goat
At the front of the Operation Goat Much entrance was a small goat pen featuring the young goat Mary, a favorite with younger visitors as well as their phone camera-toting parents.
Girl scout Catherine Gaj earned a Silver Award with her creation of an Animal Color Book for a bioversity event at Saddler's Woods, NJ.
Among the informative literature available at the event was the “Animal Coloring Book” created as the Girl Scout Silver Award Project of Catherine Gaj (left) who manned the information booth with her mother, Shameem. It was a guide to the plants and animals of Saddler’s Woods.
Bars of goat milk soap in a basket
Entrance fees also included raffle tickets for the very appropriate prize of colorful bars of goat milk soap.
A large goat with wide horns wanders a nature reserve in southern New Jersey.
Hopelessly urbanized visitors (like this photographer) weren’t aware that goats came in such an amazing variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and horn lengths. The animals are being watered and watched by human volunteers 24 hours a day during their stay.
Munching away in Saddler’s Woods