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23 June, 2020

Macduff sheep working to keep Giant hogweed at bay

Macduff sheep working to keep Giant hogweed at bay: Sheep with hogweed ©SISI project

A flock of woolly warriors introduced by the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative into woodland alongside the River Deveron have made a great start in their mission to munch away invasive Giant hogweed plants.

The sheep were introduced into the strip of woodland along the river beyond the Macduff distillery as part of a hogweed grazing trial last spring and have now arrived back to the woodland to recommence their important work after a well-earned winter break. There are fewer sheep on site in 2020 compared to last year to avoid overgrazing impacts detected in the monitoring of the 2019 season.

Many walkers continue to use the site and are welcome to do so, but are being reminded to be aware of the sheep and act responsibly – including by keeping dogs on leads.  As there are fewer animals present in the woodland they might not always be visible.

Karen Muller, Project Officer for the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative, said: “We are really pleased with how the first year of the trial has gone.  The sheep did what we hoped they would do and ate away at the Giant hogweed plants with no ill-effects.  We’ve made a few adjustments this year and will continue to monitor closely how this season goes.

“The trial is only possible through the support of the community – both the farmer who we are working with on site and local people acting responsibly while walking in the woods - and we really appreciate the help given to our team to allow this.  Hopefully, in time, we can look to clear the site of the dangerous Giant hogweed to make it safer for everyone to enjoy.”

The sheep were recruited to the grazing trial to help develop a non-chemical and sustainable approach to hogweed control which could be adapted and adopted by land managers elsewhere.  The grazing impacts of the flock were monitored last year by the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative and the University of Aberdeen through vegetation surveys - of both Giant hogweed and native plants.

The results in the first year are very promising.  The sheep developed a taste for Giant hogweed leaves and grazed the plants to the extent that they effectively suppressed hogweed growth across the site. It is hoped that this growth suppression will have long-term impacts and help to eradicate Giant hogweed from the site. 

Anyone wanting further information about the trial can read the summary case study on the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative website at https://www.invasivespecies.scot/giant-hogweed-and-sheep-trial which includes the 2019 monitoring report or can contact local project officer Karen Muller on KarenMuller@deveron.org or 07483 319448.

The Scottish Invasive Species Initiative is working with local communities and volunteers to control Giant hogweed and several other key invasive plants and the American mink across northern Scotland. For more information about the work of the project or to find out about volunteering opportunities visit the website www.invasivespecies.scot , follow the project on social media or email sisi@nature.scot

ENDS

Media enquiries: contact Vicky Hilton, SISI Volunteer and Communication Officer, on 07340 373211.

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Scottish Natural Heritage is Scotland's nature agency. We work to improve our natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it. We work to ensure that all nature in Scotland - our key habitats and landscapes, all our green space and our native species - is maintained, enhanced and brings us benefits. It is the job of all of us to achieve a balance in the sensitive management of our natural world in order to maintain and enhance biodiversity. For more information, visit our website at www.nature.scot or follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/nature_scot

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Sheep with hogweed ©SISI project

Sheep with hogweed ©SISI project

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Deveron Sheep © Karen Muller/DBIRCT

Deveron Sheep © Karen Muller/DBIRCT

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