For the next three weeks, visitors to Brackenridge Park may get to see the 150 temporary workers hired by the Brackenridge Park Conservancy in collaboration with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to clear several acres of dense brush.

And while these workers have common names like Adam, Annie and Bernard, they are anything but average. For one, their tough hooves and horns allow them to power through tough Texas plants without machinery. For another, they eat just about anything, including grass, twigs and even prickly pear cactus.

That would be because they’re goats.

Through the end of May, the goats will clear about 7 acres within Brackenridge Park’s Wilderness Area along Brackenridge Way. Separated from the public by portable electric fencing, the goats are able to go into spots where it can be unsafe and unsuitable for humans and heavy machinery, said goat wrangler Kyle Carr.

Carr owns and manages Rent-A-Ruminant Texas with his wife, Carolyn Carr. The two decided to become franchisees of Rent-A-Ruminant six years ago when they were unable to find a local chapter of the franchise to help them clear brush on their ranch.

“We were having issues with greenbrier — it was basically choking out our oak trees and we didn’t want to come in with heavy machinery and bulldoze everything,” Carr said. “So [my wife] kind of jokingly said we should hire a goat grazing company, and we realized there really wasn’t one in Texas.”

Resting on the job already? On Wednesday, 150 goats arrived to clear brush from overgrown land inside Brackenridge Park. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The idea to get goats to help clear brush in Brackenridge Park came from the Houston Arboretum, which is in its third year of using goats to control vegetation around its ponds and savanna, said Joe Turner, executive director of the Brackenridge Conservancy.

“Eco-friendly solutions to managing Brackenridge Park may be just the beginning,” Turner said in a press release. “If this project is successful, it could be considered for other city parks.”

Rio, a goat owned by Rent-A-Ruminant stands on his hind legs to reach green vegetation at Brackenridge Park.
Rio, a goat owned by Rent-A-Ruminant Texas, stands on his hind legs to reach green vegetation at Brackenridge Park. Goats will eat almost anything, including poison oak and prickly pear. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Hiring the goats for the project cost just under $18,000, which included transporting them from their home in Brownwood to San Antonio, said Charlotte Mitchell, a conservancy board member. The funding was raised by the conservancy, which helped the city avoid using taxpayer money, Mitchell said. Of that, $10,000 came from the Alamo Heights-Terrell Hills Garden Club, said Susan Altgelt, outgoing president of the club.

The goats, ranging in age from 1 year to 10, also vary in size and breed, Carr said. Some are rescues and others are former show goats. Many were born on the Carr’s land, he said.

The eight breeds in the herd include Boer, Nubian, Kiko and Nigerian Dwarf, among others. Each and every goat in the herd has a name, which the Carrs can rattle off.

All 150 goats are individually named as identified by tags on their ears.
All 150 goats have names; park visitors should be able to catch a glimpse of the name tags on their ears. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Getting the goats for Brackenridge Park has been in the works for over a year now, Mitchell said. The project had to first be approved by the city’s Animal Care Services Department and then reviewed by Parks and Recreation.

“We’re excited to welcome the goats to the park and eager to see them in action,” said Homer Garcia III, director of the Parks and Recreation Department. “Many thanks to the Alamo Heights-Terrell Hills Garden Club and Brackenridge Park Conservancy donors for spearheading this eco-friendly effort for the park.”

Visitors who come to see the goats are asked to not pet them as they will be eating plants such as poison ivy, poison oak and other species containing oils that can transfer to human skin, Carr said. A bonus of using goats instead of mowers to clear these plants is that the goats’ stomachs sterilize the weeds so their seeds can’t regrow, he noted.

“This is our first time in the San Antonio area,” Carr said. “We’re really, really excited to be here because there’s a lot of opportunities for growth in this area.”

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Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report.