• New workers in town

There are some hard-working Clemson employees on campus this summer, but they’re a little different from your typical faculty and staff.

For the fourth year in a row, a herd of hungry goats has arrived on campus to devour dense tangles of invasive plants that have plagued portions of campus for decades. For several weeks, within the confines of an electric fence, they’ll be eating just about everything within reach in an attempt to clean an area of Hunnicutt Creek near Thornhill Village. Kudzu, Chinese privet, silverthorn, English ivy, nandina, liriope and honeysuckle are all on their menu. After the goats finish their work, a team of students will remove debris and further spruce up the area.

Researcher Cal Sawyer calls Hunnicutt Creek “an amazing natural resource for us,” but one that “is hidden behind a wall of invasive vegetation.” Sawyer, an associate professor in agricultural sciences, would like to restore a long-lost view of the creek using a strategy that includes “prescribed grazing, mechanical methods, and interested, enthusiastic students.”

The project began in 2014 when the goats, on loan from Ron Searcy of Wells Farm in Horse Shoe, N.C., were released into another area adjacent to Hunnicutt Creek. They’ve also eaten their way through invasive species in the area between Lee Hall and the Strom Thurmond Institute and on 3 1/2 acres along the seventh hole of Walker Golf Course.

According to Searcy, the project is beneficial to the goats as well. “Going into a wildly overgrown area is far more beneficial for goats than being in a pasture. Like deer, goats are browsers. They prefer to eat high … off the ground. The plants they like to eat are extremely nutritious. And staying off the ground adds to the benefit by reducing the amount of parasites they consume.”

Sawyer hopes the end result of this project will be greater than simply clearing out unsightly brush. He wants people to care about preserving areas such as Hunnicutt Creek.

“We’re actually bringing Hunnicutt Creek and other areas into view for many on campus who might have walked past them for years and not even realized they were there,” says Sawyer. “I believe individuals often need to experience something visually or physically before they can begin to care about it enough to become involved.”

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