Animals take over landscaping duties at O'Hare

Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Animals take over landscaping duties at O'Hare
Parts of O'Hare International Airport may look more like a petting zoo these days, as animals including goats, sheep and llamas have taken over some of the landscaping duties.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- O'Hare International Airport looks a bit like a petting zoo these days since animals, including goats, sheep and llamas, have taken over some of the landscaping duties.

The green grazing is called the Sustainable Vegetation Management Initiative, and in its third year it appears to be a success. Six acres on the north side of O'Hare are kept neat and trimmed, there's a big fence to keep the animals corralled, no concern with the noise and the animals are happy.

Goats, sheep, llamas and burros are the landscaping alternative of choice in the parts of O'Hare just beyond the fence where the airplanes land, because they can go where humans cannot.

"What one animal doesn't eat the other does, so you have less invasive plants," explains Pinky Janota of Settler's Pond Animal Rescue.

Less invasive plants and lower grass means fewer rodents, which means fewer birds. Reducing the number of birds near the runways is a benefit, too, as birds and planes do not get along.

The animal mowing is also done at low cost, and there have been no demands for wage hikes.

"They don't charge any overtime," says Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans. "No, they just nibble away."

Butch the burro is supposed to maintain order, but he's young and needs to get his feet firmly planted, so there is no alpha male on the team just yet.

The animals do take breaks and are allowed to take baths. They get excited when television cameras come to film them and can be prone to moodiness - one sheep, Pip, head-butted two photographers without just cause and had to be cooled from further offense with water spray.