O'Hare goats, other animals ready to graze at airport

August 13, 2013 (CHICAGO)

One of the largest airports in the world is using a low-tech solution for its landscaping needs. Goats, sheep, llamas and burros are now grazing on the grounds of O'Hare International Airport.

There is a fancy government term for what's going on here. It's called O'Hare's Sustainable Landscaping Initiative, which means that a couple dozen goats, sheep, burros and llamas have been hired to trim the wild grasses around the airport. That way the birds, which do not mix well with planes, are discouraged from moving in.

"Lawnmowers can't get to these areas because of loose soil," said Rosie Andolino, commissioner of the Department of Aviation.

So they go where the mowers can't. They enjoy invasive plant life. They work cheap. No overtime. No pension, there are lots of grasses out there.

So, what do they do?

"They eat it. They should be able to take this all down," said shepherd Joe Arnold.

They're working up by the north runway now. Three weeks here and then on to another O'Hare spot.

By the looks of it here, Project Herd has a lot to be done because there are plenty of 'chewable' acres at O'Hare.

"Goats eat the weeds the burros won't, so everyone complements themselves," said Pinky Janota of Settler's Pond.

But the burros and the llamas keep the coyotes away, so they multitask. But during our visit they were more interested in posing than eating.

You won't see them running on the airfield. The fences will keep them out. They don't give a hoot about plane noise. In fact, at midday, one momma sheep gave birth to a baby, which they've named O'Hare. Isn't that cute? Now get to work!

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