The Unusual Environmentalist Reason San Francisco Int’l Airport Now Has About 400 Goats

(TheBlaze/AP) — Officials at San Francisco International Airport recently acquired a herd of animals to toil on the west side of the property to engage in an unusual – but apparently “environmentally friendly” – form of fire prevention.

For two weeks in June, Mr. Fuzzy, Cookie, Mable, Alice and nearly 400 other goats chomped on the brush in a remote corner of the airport.

The area needs to be cleared each spring to protect nearby homes from potential fires, but humans and machines can’t be used because of the endangered San Francisco garter snake and California red-legged frog that live within.

So the airport paid $14,900 for the service this year, and has gone the same route for the past five years.  Each time, they’ve turned to “Goats R Us,” a small brush-removal company run by Terri Oyarzun, her husband Egon and their son Zephyr.

In this Wednesday, June 19, 2013,photo, a goat grazes on a patch of San Francisco International Airport land in San Francisco. (Photo: AP)

The goats travel 30 miles each spring from their home in Orinda, Calif. to the airport in a 16-wheel truck that Oyarzun calls her “livestock limo.” They come with a goat herder and a Border Collie named Toddy Lynn, then spend two weeks cutting away a 20-foot firebreak on the west side of the airport.

“When passengers take off and fly over the goats, I’m sure that’s a thrill,” Oyarzun commented.

But the San Francisco international airport isn’t the only place the goats are used.  They can also be seen munching away on the side of California’s freeways, at state parks, under long-distance electric lines and anywhere else with overgrown vegetation. The family has about 4,000 total active goats on its payroll.

Working at an airport does come with its own set of challenges, namely loud, frightening jets constantly taking off.

“There was an adjustment period,” Oyarzun said. “But they have a lot of confidence in their herder.”

In this Wednesday, June 19, 2013, photo, goats graze on a patch of San Francisco International Airport land in San Francisco.

Airport spokesman Doug Yakel added: “We’re pleased with our organic process for weed abatement.”

And the environmentally friendly practice may continue to spread.  Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport has requested bids for goats to clear brush in an out of the way area of the airport’s 7,000-acre property, and expects them to be at the airport sometime this summer.

When goats become too old to work, they are typically sold for meat. But fear not, Mr. Fuzzy, Cookie, Mable, Alice won’t end up at the slaughterhouse. The Oyarzun family lets its goats peacefully retire at its farm.

Other Must-Read Stories: