CHICAGO (WLS) -- A group of goats, sheep and a donkey are working their way along the O'Hare airport perimeter one snack at a time. They're grazing--and with purpose, helping clear 35 acres of land for the Chicago Department of Aviation.
"By using the animals it frees up the CDA staff that would be available for mowing or doing maintenance on other areas of the airport," explained department Deputy Commissioner of Environment Aaron Frame, adding, "We don't have the lawn mowers here. We are avoiding air pollution emissions and we are also able to reduce any emissions that we might otherwise apply from herbicides."
The group of animals live on the grazing land and eat their way through a fenced-in section. Then, their flock master Andrew Tokarz will guide them to the next area needing to be cleared.
"The ground, because of the grazing, is absorbing more CO2 so we're fighting global warming," he said.
Aesthetics and environmental benefits aside, clearing vegetation around the airport is important for flight safety.
"We're very close to the airfield fence. So by using this herd we're able to reduce the vegetation which would then reduce the habitat for birds to nest. And obviously we want to keep as many birds away from the aircraft as feasible," said Frame, in reference to the possibility that birds could collide with taxiing planes.
This is the fifth summer CDA has brought a grazing herd to O'Hare, according to Frame. He said this land-clearing option cost-effective when compared to using maintenance staff.
Grazing goats back at O'Hare