In an effort to restore the Freshwater Marsh Nature Preserve within Brandywine Creek State Park, DNREC’s Division of Parks and Recreation have introduced two River Water Buffalo from a Delaware farm to graze the area and help reduce the number of invasive plants.
The two yearling water buffalo bulls, from Patt Wagner’s Water Buffalo Farm near Milford, will be at the marsh for four to six weeks this summer as a trial. They will graze a five-acre fenced area in the park’s nature preserve.
“The buffalo are being used for prescribed grazing, a restoration approach,” said Rob Line, Environmental Stewardship program manager, with the Division of Parks and Recreation. “They are an ancient breed introduced to Europe from western Asia and domesticated over 5,000 years ago. They are more tolerant of the wet conditions than a cow would be, and they will eat woody vegetation, which makes their diet closer to a goat than to a cow, in terms of grazing. We think they will work well on a site like this,” Line said.
The project is a partnership among DNREC’s Divisions of Parks and Recreation, which owns the land and manages the preserve, DNREC’s Division Fish and Wildlife’s Natural Heritage program, that will help monitor vegetation changes at the site, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which provided the funding to build the fence and lease the water buffalo.
The buffalo will suppress invasive plants – especially reed canary grass among others – by both eating and crushing them since their weight will help break up the root mat. The dark brown buffalo weigh approximately 800 pounds each. “Their grazing will be beneficial to Delaware’s native plants and animals, including rare species that are currently being compromised by the invasives,” Line said.
If everything goes well this year, plans are for the buffalo to be used for seven to eight weeks during spring and summer months for the next few years. DNREC will monitor the marsh to determine how much grazing will be needed from year to year.