Animal news: sheepie gourmands on Governors Island

Got this from today’s Daily News.

5 new workers sink their teeth in job on Gov. Island

By Ellen Moynihan AND Leonard Greene New York Daily News

Mares eat oats, and does eat oats, and little lambs eat invasive plant species on Governors Island. [Standing O to Moynihan and Greene for quoting that funny war-time novelty song.]

Five fluffy sheep that could have stepped out of an old-fashioned nursery rhyme were brought down from an Albany farm by the Trust for Governors Island and went to work Monday munching on unwanted vegetation on the island in New York Harbor.

[A picture of some fluffy sheep, not the ones working on Governors Island, but some others.  ⇓]

The task for this herd of sheep is to pig out on grass, mugworts and sunflowers that choke the landscaping of the island’s lush Hammock Grove.

By supplying free food for the sheep — Flour, Sam, Evening, Chad and Philip Aries [what great sheep names, huh?] — park managers don’t have to rely as much on harmful, weed-controlling pesticides. As for the sheep, they get to do laudable environmental work and make an important contribution to society.

“The shear genius of this idea lies in its simplicity,” said Mayor de Blasio, packing in the puns and sound effects at a sheep introduction ceremony on the island Monday. “On behalf of the thousands of New Yorkers flocking to open space on Governors Island every season, I want to thank Flour, Sam, Evening, Chad and Philip Aries for doing their part to bring New York City baaaack.

“Bon appetit, fellas,” he said.

The sheep play an important new role in the ecosystem of Hammock Grove, an experimental forest area of 1,200 trees planted between 2012 and 2014.

The planting project was designed to determine which species thrive best in New York.

More than 40 varieties of trees are planted in the grove, including pin oak, swamp white oak, hickory, tulip trees and catalpa, many of them saplings.

Once the trees are established, the shade will prevent invasive plants from taking over. But for now, the sheep are needed to do the job.

“In the summer I would spend about 80% of my time just weeding,” said Malcolm Gore, senior gardener on the horticulture team and now the Governors Island shepherd.

“I’m hoping to focus on tree care some more and not have to be focused solely on preventing them from going to seed,” he said. “That was my biggest worry in the past two summers.”

Gardeners in the past used goats to clear areas, but that strategy was a bust, said Clare Newman, president and CEO of the Trust for Governors Island.

“Goats like to eat wooded plants,” Newman said. “They would strip off the low branches from the trees and the bark off the tree.”

She said the sheep, from Friends of Tivoli Lake Preserves and Farm in Albany, are much better workers.

“They’re really doing a bang-up job,” she said.

As cute as they may be, the sheep are working and not to be petted or fed by visitors, Newman said.

“We encourage folks to look at the sheep and love the sheep,” Newman said, “but not pet the sheep or feed the sheep.”

Gore, the newly appointed shepherd, added that he wished the sheep could do a little more work.

“It would be great if they could help mow the lawns,” he said.

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