Past Project: EcoGoats to the Rescue

Note: This project has ended. The following content is for archival/informational purposes only. In February 2020, the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club (HNC) permanently protected its ninth nature sanctuary thanks to the incredible generosity of Sheelah and Martin Dooley. The 52 acre Sheelah Dunn Dooley Nature Sanctuary is located in Aldershot (Burlington) and is a mix of steep wooded ravine, open seasonally wet meadow, and shrub thicket habitats for numerous common and at risk species. The majority of the property is upland meadow with gray dogwood thicket, interspersed with invasive plants such as buckthorn, honeysuckle, dog strangling vine and multi-flora rose. There is also a steep ravine with a small creek at the bottom that flows into Cootes Paradise. The ravine is wooded with primarily native species. These varied habitats attract a high diversity of birds and insects. The property lies in the middle of the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System which is a collaboration between nine local government and non-profit organizations who work together to protect and restore our natural lands and secure additional natural lands to create ecological corridors. In addition, the partners work together and with other local environmental groups to deliver sustainable recreation and education opportunities. The Sheelah Dunn Dooley Nature Sanctuary is a key part of an important north-south connection in the EcoPark System. HNC is caring for the nature sanctuary with a focus on managing invasive plant species that are hindering the growth of native plants, and reducing habitat quality. Some of the invasive plants include common buckthorn, dog-strangling vine, multiflora rose and phragmites. Managing these species will help to improve wildlife habitat for the numerous common and at-risk species that depend on the property. A variety of management techniques will be used including mechanical, chemical and the use of goats to eat unwanted invasive plants. HNC was fortunate to have a team of Niagara College Ecosystem Restoration program students develop an invasive species management plan for the nature sanctuary. The plan details how invasive plants should be managed and outlines a monitoring plan for HNC to follow to determine the long-term impact the goats have on the invasive plants compared with traditional management techniques. Goats are increasingly being recognized as invasive species management champions. HNC is the first in the region to employ goats to help manage common buckthorn, dog strangling vine and multiflora rose over an extended period of time. The first year of the project has been a great success! For details read the Year 1 Summary Report.

Photos © Hamilton Naturalists’ Club