Atlanta’s airport test using sheep and goats to clear brush

Atlanta, GA (WSB) – Tackling the job of trimming grass and weeds around an airport is no small task.

That's why officials at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport have brought in 100 experts: sheep and goats.  

One hundred sheep and a few goats; yards from Hartsfield Jackson's fifth runway.

It's a one-week test to see if the sheep can clear brush adjacent to the runways more efficiently and more cheaply than men, machines and herbicide.  

Assistant Director of Aviation Maintenance, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Chris Davis says, “This was actually donated by an anonymous donor. We get a chance to evaluate something, try something new and right now it's not costing us anything.”

They eat but just about any kind of brush. Overgrowth is a concern not just for pilots line of sight but to eliminate wildlife habitat.

Greg Levine with Trees Atlanta says, “Birds, coyotes, deer. All those animal can run and have run into the runways by keeping the brush clear and low keeps the wildlife a little further.”

The sheep are contained by the shepherd and dogs. There's also an electric fence and if the program is brought closer to the runways there'd be more fencing.

“We still would have to put up some type of containment fence and those are some of the issues we would have to work out with TSA,”Davis explains.

Its worked out at two other U.S. airports.

Davis says, “Now San Francisco has a program, Sea-Tac used it out in Seattle, they don't use it anymore because it wasn't cost-effective for them.”

That's what Atlanta will have to figure out, the sheep are the same ones that cleared five city parks this summer including Chastain Park.

So far the jets don't seem to bother them.

We were curious to see what their reaction would be when we first brought them out here. Never even looked in the direction of the planes, they're so used to all the city sounds that not much shakes them at this point.