Animals at Airports: From Working Critters to Wild Carnivores

Starting next month, Chicago’s ode to the technological marvels of the jet-age – we speak of O’Hare, of course – will take flight into the past with an old-school method of lawn mowing: Goats.

Goats at Airports

That’s right, about 25 goats (complete with shepherd) are expected to begin a pilot “vegetation-management” program at the mega-airport mainly because goats can get to brush on rocky hillsides that thwart the gamest of groundskeepers. Note: O’Hare is just renting the goats; they are owned by an outfit called Butcher & The Burger (and FareCompare refuses to speculate further).

But O’Hare isn’t the only airport putting on an animal act.

Find a cheap flight now (goats optional)

Dogs and Geese

Several facilities including airports at Ft. Myers, Charleston and Vancouver have used border collies to shoo away geese. Sure, geese are picturesque but they can also bring down planes; just ask Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger of “Miracle on the Hudson” fame. Dogs are apparently pretty good at stopping bird strikes before they can happen but it’s not the only wildlife pilots have to worry about.

Top dog-friendly destinations

Coyotes and Monkeys and Bears, Oh My

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the vast majority of strikes involve birds but “strikes with other animals such as deer, coyotes, snakes and alligators have also been reported.” Presumably alligator strikes occur mostly in Florida but coyotes are everywhere in the U.S. including the airport at Raleigh/Durham. As FareCompare reported back in 2009, “an American Eagle plane hit a coyote on the runway – fortunately, no one was injured (except, perhaps, the coyote).”

No surprise that animals are international. We have this report of a few years back from India’s Hindustan Times: “Jackals, neelgais [antelopes], monitor lizards, peacocks, porcupines, snakes, monkeys, foxes, dogs and birds of prey – the diversity of wildlife at Indira Gandhi International Airport can give any small town zoo a run for its money.”

Back in the U.S., we have seen no reports of bears at Juneau’s airport but we did hear of an accidental discharge of bear repellent in 2009 which shut down that Alaskan airport for an hour and a half – which begs the question: What scent would repel a grizzly – Eau de Godzilla?


Published: May 8, 2013