Whiskey, a goat that sneaked onto the trailer bringing 30 goats Congressional Cemetery for the second “goats in the graveyard,” Thursday peruses the forest the goats will help clear. Whiskey belongs to Mary Bowen, president of Prosperity Acres Browsing Green Goats. (SHFWire photo by Matthew J. Connor)

Goats Gorge at Congressional Graveyard

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Kids with four legs and two legs were hanging out in a graveyard. But only the kids with four legs were eating their greens.

Thirty goats started chowing down on invasive weeds and plants Thursday to protect trees in a forest adjacent to the Congressional Cemetery during the opening day of “Goats in the Graveyard.”

The goats have until Aug. 20 to gorge themselves on some of their favorite delicacies, including poison ivy.

“They’re having a ball. They’re getting so much attention,” Mary Bowen, president of Prosperity Acres Browsing Green Goats, said. “If they were human, they would want the all-you-can-eat buffet at Golden Corral.”

What they eat will have a tough time growing back.

Goats have seemingly bottomless guts, and seeds that pass through their digestive systems can’t grow.

Bowen said that, contrary to popular imagination, goats do not eat cans or bottles. She said her 30 dairy goats prefer broadleaf vegetation.

The goats browse through the forest, picking out which vines they want to eat.

This is not the first time the Congressional Cemetery has invited goats to its hallowed grounds, where many former members of Congress are buried alongside such luminaries as composer and U.S. Marine  Band leader John Philips Sousa and longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

The cemetery has over 65,000 graves and serves as a neighborhood park for people and dogs alike. The cemetery still buries people, many of them local residents.

In 2013, goats came to clear out a part of the same forest.

Paul K. Williams, president of Historic Congressional Cemetery, said because the cemetery is near the Anacostia River, letting goats eat invasive greens is good for the environment. The alternative would be using chemicals to protect the grounds’ trees.

Williams said the company the cemetery used two years ago, Eco-goats, backed out a few weeks ago citing scheduling issues. Williams Googled “goats for hire near Washington, D.C.” and found Bowen’s company in Sunderland, Md., about 30 miles southeast of the cemetery.

He said he especially likes one of the baby goats, which are called kids.

“I’ve got Nadia, it’s a pretty nice, calm goat that follows you around,” Williams said.

SHF Wire Goats at Graveyard
Penny, a goat intent on nibbling leaves on a fence facing the Congressional Cemetery, spent much of Thursday afternoon stalking the fence line, ripping off vines that are a nuisance for the cemetery. (SHFWire photo by Matthew J. Connor)

Another goat wasn’t supposed to make the trip.

“Whiskey, he’s kind of a cool guy. He kind of snuck into the trailer accidentally,” Williams said. “All the goats started going in the trailer, and he just kind of hopped in.”

Nadia, a black-and-white dairy goat, is a little over a year old. She spent some of the afternoon napping on a sidewalk beside the graveyard. Her appetite was sorely lacking.

The goats are fenced into a one-and-a-half acre site, at a distance where they can’t put their teeth around any gravestones.

Bowen said another goal of bringing the goats to the cemetery is to educate children about the environment. The goats, expected to eat around the clock for the next two weeks, will clear room for native plants to grow again near the cemetery. Honey bees will then be able to start pollinating the forested area again.

Directional signs to the goats’ feasting area will be posted until Aug. 20, when the goats depart.

Bowen said the goats’ next job is to clean up part of the shore along the Chesapeake Bay.

This story courtesy Scripps Howard Foundation Wire.  Like the SHFWire interns on Facebook and follow them on Twitter