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Chicago airport gets goats

By Aaron Cooper, CNN
updated 9:33 AM EDT, Sat May 11, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chicago's O'Hare Airport plans to use goats as landscapers
  • The herd will munch on 120 acres of foliage at the airport
  • Other airports have employed goats with mixed results

(CNN) -- Have you herd? Goats are now scheduled to land at Chicago's O'Hare Airport for a meal and some landscaping.

The city's aviation authority wasn't kidding Wednesday when they announced a two-year contract for "sustainable vegetation management grazing services" with Central Commissary Holdings.

Twenty-five to 30 of the four-legged creatures will chow down on 120 acres of foliage at the airport, including space along creeks and hilly areas too hard and expensive to maintain using other methods, a press release said.

To ensure the animals don't try to head butt a 747 they will be separated from the airfield by security fencing, remain supervised while on airport property, and spend evenings in a nearby transport trailer.

The curse of the Billy Goat may have haunted the Chicago Cubs for decades, but the airport believes embracing the animals will save money, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and cut down on toxic herbicides.

Sheep clear brush near Atlanta's airport

"This pilot program will help the CDA achieve many economic, operational, environmental and social benefits, achieving our goal of balancing people, planet and profit," Aviation Department Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino said in the release.

There's no word if the goats will help with World Series hopes.

The overall cost for two years of weed eating goats could reach $100,000, but the Chicago Department of Aviation is quick to point out it uses no local or state tax dollars for operations or capital improvements.

Other airports have tried grazing goats with mixed results.

San Francisco airport uses a herd for two to three weeks each June to clear vegetation for a fire break on the west side of the airport.

"The benefits of the goats is this property is home to two endangered species, the San Francisco Garter Snake and the California Red Legged Frog," SFO Airport Duty Manager Doug Yakel told CNN.

"They can clear this vegetation for us without endangering these two species, where heavy machine or mowing might."

But Seattle's Sea-Tac Airport kicked the goats out after only a week in 2008.

"Airport managers decided to discontinue using the goats because they were, in effect, too effective," said Christina Faine, an airport spokeswoman. "Goats, indiscriminate eaters, eat everything, including the trees and native plants that we wanted to protect."

Chicago's goat herd is expected to arrive at O'Hare in about a month.

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