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Merrick's new lawn mowers: Dwarf goats

The Town of Hempstead has a new set of grass cutters for the Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve in Merrick, and they go by the names Sleepy, Sneezy, Bashful, Happy and Doc.

The five are Nigerian dwarf goats and their assignment will be controlling weeds and overgrowth at the 50-acre preserve.

The puppy-sized goats, between 4 and 6 weeks old, spent Monday in their pen, grazing on goat pellets. By autumn, town officials hope the five will be chowing down grass and weeds.

- PHOTOS: Hempstead's dwarf goats

"We'll let them eat to their hearts' content," said Town Supervisor Kate Murray. "Basically, they're going to be our natural lawn mowers."

But the goats won't have free rein of the preserve: They will either be tethered to a line, tended on leashes or kept inside a movable fence.

And although the animals are considered gentle, children will not be allowed to pet them.

"There's an overabundance of caution at this point," Murray said. "They're young, they're unpredictable and it's not really their purpose."

The town paid $1,200 for the five goats, which were born at the Long Island Zoological Society in Manorville. The town expects to save money that would have been spent on labor, gas, lawn mowers and line trimmers. Officials also touted the goats' value to the environment, as their carbon footprint will be smaller than that of lawn care machinery.

Park rangers named the herd after five of the Seven Dwarfs who befriended Snow White in the fairy tale and movie. At a media event Monday, Doc showed his flair for the theatrical. From inside a Little Tikes playhouse, he climbed onto a food trough, then jumped out a window to the amusement of officials and Ilene Robinson's third-grade class from nearby Norman J. Levy Lakeside Elementary School.

It's not the first time the preserve has turned to unusual methods to respond to issues at the facility. Four years ago, guinea fowl were brought in to control ticks. They feed on insects and, since their arrival, the preserve hasn't had any reports of ticks, Murray said.

The preserve hopes the goats will thrive -- and perhaps add to their ranks.

"We figure with one boy and four girls, nature might take its course," Murray said.

- PHOTOS: Hempstead's dwarf goats

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