JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center recently opened a new animal exhibit: three female goats.
Autrey Mill Board President Pam Sutton said plans had been in the works to bring goats to the nature center for more than six years.
“At the time, we really had only the reptiles that were in the visitor center,” Sutton said. “We had in our strategic plan a desire to expand those animal ambassadors outside of reptiles and amphibians.”
First, Autrey Mill brought in chickens and other small farm animals. Goats were seen as an ideal next step because they connect to the land’s history as a farm, Sutton said.
“The chickens, the goats, the rabbit, those are all animals that a farm would have had,” Sutton said. “It completely brings nature and history together. We have heritage camps and nature camps. Both camps are talking about the goats from different perspectives.”
In September, the goats will be displayed at a family farm festival. The festival will showcase the land’s history and bring generations together to learn about what Johns Creek was like when it was all farmland, Sutton said.
Though goats have a reputation for being rambunctious, many Autrey Mill visitors will find Cusco, Kirby and Ms. Jacobs to be friendly and calm.
Goats were first domesticated about 10,000 years ago, and a 2016 study by Queen Mary University of London found they communicate with humans in ways similar to dogs.
“The goats really do crave interaction,” Sutton said. “We have three because one would be very lonely. They have each other, but they really like people.”
Local families are helping Autrey Mill by walking and playing with the goats. Each volunteer family commits to helping at least twice a month. Those interested in volunteering should look out for goat care classes in the fall.
Sutton said the goat exhibit would not be possible if not for the Eagle Scouts who helped build the enclosure and the Johns Creek Convention and Visitors Bureau which provided funding.
Additionally, each of the goats was purchased thanks to a community sponsor: Kirby by Precision Land Management, Ms. Jacobs by Jacobs Engineering and Cusco by the Sutton family.
“We really had a lot of community support,” Sutton said.
Seeing the enthusiasm for the new goats, Autrey Mill is seeking ambassadors for its other animals, like chickens, ducks and Pebbles the tortoise. The donations help Autrey Mill purchase food and supplies, and sponsors are recognized with a sign on the animal’s enclosure for one year.
For more information about the animal ambassador sponsorships, visit autreymill.org/support/animals-of-autrey-mill-sponsorship. Sponsors can also help Autrey Mill animals by shopping their Amazon wishlist at amzn.to/2K1Su7c.