SFO turns to goats for upkeep of wetlands 

click to enlarge SFO is 'employing' goats to groom the wetlands near the airport, which is home to multiple endangered species. - REUTERS FILE PHOTO
  • Reuters File Photo
  • SFO is 'employing' goats to groom the wetlands near the airport, which is home to multiple endangered species.

Travelers coming through San Francisco International Airport already have sights such as the Bay and San Bruno Mountain to see, and this month there will be another interesting, albeit less conventional, visual: goats.

The hub has dispatched a herd of the grass-munching bovids to eat up excess weeds near the airport as part of its annual fire hazard abatement program. Because the airport’s marshy wetlands are home to endangered species such as the San Francisco garter snake and the red-legged frog, SFO has to eschew normal weed-whacking strategies.

The goats will be dispatched to the west of SFO’s Bayshore property, in an area between U.S. Highway 101 and train tracks near Millbrae. Because of the snakes and frogs, that site is off-limits to airport personnel and heavy equipment.

Charles Shuler, an airport spokesman, said the hub has been using the goats for a couple of years for upkeep of the Bayshore site. As the region enters peak fire season, it’s important to remove dry shrubs from the property, Shuler said. The goats, leased out from an independent company and tended by a herder and a biologist, will likely be working for the next several weeks.

“We basically just direct the goats to eat the vegetation,” Shuler said. “They do all the real work.”

Employing goats to cut down excess growth is actually not an uncommon practice among public agencies. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission have both employed the animals to help clear their properties.

SFO isn’t the only spot where the snakes and frogs have forced authorities to rethink vegetation control. Both species are found at Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica, and there have been calls to restore the park to wetlands to protect the species.


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Will Reisman

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