CHICAGO - Summer vacation is already over for school kids, but as of Wednesday, it's also over for a group of 200 goats who are about to go back to work for the local power company.
ComEd treated several of the goats to cruises along the Chicago River, for a last summer hurrah before a month of hard labor.
"Our goats are out here celebrating their last week of summer before they go work for us," said Tom Ringhofer, manager of ComEd's Vegetation Management program.
It's serious work, too, in preventing power outages caused by overgrown vegetation. Turns out, no one is better at clearing it than goats.
The goats will be working at Mathiessen State Park near Starved Rock, clearing brush in areas too difficult for humans to safely work. "There are steep ravines. And they'll be clearing brush under the ravines for 4 weeks and after they're done they go back home and do it all again somewhere else," said Ringhofer.
It's the fourth year for the program, which started as a light-bulb moment when human crews came up short. "We were walking near a job down near Peoria and someone said, "this is ridiculous we can't get our crews in here! We need to figure something out," said Ringhofer, who then contacted "Goats on the Go" - a company which provides the goats.
ComEd will employ 200 goats for the month of September. The utility said the goats offer not only an eco-friendly solution to clearing vegetation, but also drastically reduce safety risks for their human colleagues.
"We were able to clear the 17 acres in Peoria, and we reseeded the area this past spring, so now there's wildflowers growing there and we hope to do the same thing at Mathiessen State Park."