MURRELLS INLET, S.C. (WBTW) — Tourists aren’t the only ones making their return to the Grand Strand this time of year.

The famous goats are back on Goat Island along the Marshwalk in Murrells Inlet, a tradition that has been going on for nearly 40 years. This year, there are seven of them.

“That’s the big question. ‘When are they coming back? When are they coming back?'” Al Hitchcock, co-owner of Drunken Jack’s Restaurant and the man behind the goats, said.

For almost 40 years Hitchcock has been bringing the goats to a little island across from the restaurant. It’s a springtime tradition in Murrells Inlet.

“We do it each spring, and they spend the season over on the island with the goats,” Hitchcock said. “We’ll come back in November to gather them up again. Earlier today, we had about 50 people watching us.”

It’s something the public looks forward to each year.

“They’re a wonderful little attraction down here in Murrells Inlet,” Maxwell Gerwatowski, manager at Express Watersports, said.

While it’s a fun attraction to the public, it actually serves an important purpose. The goats help keep the underbrush down.

“We decided we’ll put some goats out, and then they keep the island undergrowth, they keep it cleaned up, Hitchcock said.”

How do the goats get to the island some may ask? The answer: A quick float on a goat boat — a small pontoon boat that carries them from the Marshwalk to the island.

“My favorite is always helping getting the goats back out there,” Gerwatowski said. “This year, I carried a small baby goat out on the island. Normally, the end of the season as well, I help bring them off the island, so both sides of it are great.”

The goats spend the summer months on the island with fresh food and water daily. They also have shelter to keep them safe during high tide. If there are any serious threats like hurricanes, the goats are evacuated.

“Whenever we get any sort of inclination that there’s going to be bad weather and the island or the goats are in danger, we set up a little rescue team, get some boats out there and pull them back to safety,” Gerwatowski said.

The goats will remain on the island, which is located behind Drunken Jack’s Restaurant, until November.