They’re back. They’re hungry. And they’re not picky eaters.
A herd of 37 goats, sheep, llamas and burros have been hired by Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to munch on poison ivy, noxious weeds and other unwanted vegetation along creeks, streams and roadway right-of-ways on airport property.
Part of the Chicago Department of Aviation’s (CDA) Sustainable Vegetation Management initiative for O’Hare, the critters are on loan from Settlers Pond, an animal rescue facility in Beecher, Ill.
A herd of about 25 animals was on duty last year from July through November eating unwanted vegetation. That helped the airport cut back on the use of emission-producing equipment and limited the use of toxic herbicides on some of the airport’s 8,000 acres of land.
This year, up to 120 acres of O’Hare land difficult to maintain with traditional landscaping equipment has been set aside for all-they-can-eat grazing. The herd, which spends evenings in transport vans nearby the grazing land, will stay at O’Hare until the weather gets too cold for the animals to access vegetation.
As before, all the sites where the animals graze are in areas far away from or separated from the airfield by security fencing.
Which means we shouldn’t be hearing any stories about take-offs or landings being delayed at O’Hare by a jackass running around on the runway.
At least two other U.S. airports have had animals help out with landscape management.
San Francisco International Airport has a herd of goats come by each year to assist with weed control and in 2012 a herd of 91 sheep and 10 goats participated help control vegetation at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
(My story about weed-eating at O’Hare International Airport first appeared on USA TODAY)