Airport Summer Hires: Goats For Fire Prevention

Who needs herbicides and machinery when you've got a herd of hungry goats? Continue reading →

And now for some good news coming out of the San Francisco International Airport: A large herd of goats has been brought in again this year to chomp away at scrub and brush in an environmentally-friendly effort to reduce fire risks and manage weeds.

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Airport staff can't take weed-whackers to the brush growing along the western side of the airport because the area is home to endangered garter snakes and red-legged frogs, Associated Press airlines writer Scott Mayerowitz reported. To protect the airport and nearby homes from fire risk, about 400 goats - with names such as Alice, Cookie and Mr. Fuzzy - spent two weeks in June snacking around the airport.

The herd, from the Orinda, California-based grazing company Goats R Us, formed an effective 20-foot firebreak along the airport's western side.

Goats are regular summer workers at SFO. Last year they made their way along the West of Bayshore property, going places that humans and machines can't, the airport said in a press release. In addition to protecting endangered species, the goats take care of weeds without the use of herbicides.

Airport grazing is taking off elsewhere in the country. Chicago's O'Hare Airport announced a two-year contract in May for the services of 25 to 30 goats starting this summer. It's part of the airport's effort to reduce emissions, save money and cut down on herbicides.

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Goats need tending, though. Left to their own devices, they can polish off all the vegetation around - including plants you wanted to keep. They need land manager collaboration as well as a human goat herder and a border collie to keep everything in check. Maybe airports will consider hiring herders who work inside next. Boarding could go so much faster.

Photo: Goats like this one in the Oakland and Berkeley hills are helping prevent wildfires at the San Francisco International Airport. Credit: Doug Greenberg.