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Governors Island Sheep
Photograph: courtesy of the Trust for Governors Island

Governors Island's sheep landscaping crew is back

The family of five is employed to trim the lawns for the summer.

Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner
Written by
Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner

Some of your favorite seasonal New Yorkers are baaa-acck. 

Governors Island’s grass-eating sheep flock has returned for the summer with a mission to eat invasive plant species and help improve the island’s natural landscape. Returning sheep Evening, Chad, and Philip Aries will be joined by two new flock members, Bowie and Jupiter for the island’s third year in a row of this adorable program. 

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“Ewe better believe we are excited to welcome baaaaack our flock of wooly friends to Governors Island,” said Clare Newman, President and CEO of the Trust for Governors Island. “This innovative landscaping program is not only a great benefit to our Island’s plants but to our visitors as well, who always enjoy seeing the sheep in action. We are thrilled that two new faces are joining us this year but will note that Bowie and Jupiter are under pressure to live up to the work performance of their family, who have become landscaping heroes and enjoy considerable fame.”

The sheep hail from their cold weather residence in Albany via Friends of Tivoli Lake Preserve and Farm. For the next five months, they'll be on the island munching through mugwort, phragmites and other invasive species, freeing up the Island’s horticultural team to do more important work.“This will be the third year the sheep will be coming down to help us mow,” said Leo Frampton, Gardener and at the Trust for Governors Island. “As always, these animals will give me and my team more time to do what we love [gardening] by spending each day doing what they love [eating]. They will help us maximize the ecological benefits of Hammock Grove, as it continues to grow into a fully formed urban forest that all New Yorkers can escape to.”

Sheep at work landscaping Governors Island
Trust for Governors IslandSheep at work landscaping Governors Island

Mugwort, phragmites (the sheep’s favorite) and other invasive plant species have crowded other plantings on Governors Island, essentially creating a monoculture that native plants can’t compete for space in. The sheep eating these herbaceous plants helps to break down and weaken them, preventing them from flowering and the seeds from spreading. This helps increase biodiversity on the island as the human horticulture team cultivates an immersive, climate-resilient, ecologically beneficial open space where New Yorkers can reconnect with nature.

Sheep are also uniquely suited to the work on Governors Island, more so than goats or other animals, since their culinary tastes do not include tree bark. Several sheep herding demonstrations and hands-on wool activities will be held on Governors Island in partnership with Friends of Tivoli Lake Preserve and Farm.

“Baa! Baa! Baaaaa! Baaaaaaaaaaaaa!,” said Bowie and Jupiter in a joint statement when asked how excited they were to spend their summer on Governors Island.

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