Meet Piper The Very Cool Dog Who Works To Keep Airport Runways Safe
He's almost too cool.
Meet Piper, a 7-year-old border collie and K-9 wildlife manager at Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, Michigan. He's also very cool.
Piper has the important job of chasing birds away from the airport's runways and taxiways, which can be struck by landing planes, according to the airport's website.
Piper came on as wildlife manager in January 2015, and works a full-time shift from 4 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
His handler and owner, Brian Edwards, has been working at the airport as the airport operations supervisor since 2008.
Edwards and Piper begin their day clearing any deer, foxes, and other wildlife from the runway area. Piper also seeks out ground hog holes for Edwards to fill along the airport's fence.
He wears very cool reflective goggles to protect his eyes on the job.
But Piper's biggest responsibility is to clear any birds from the airways above the landing strip.
The airport attracts flocks of Canadian geese and water fowl, airport spokesperson Susan Wilcox Olson told BuzzFeed News. Snowy owls will also fly into the airport during the winter.
Edwards will get a call over his radio from aircraft traffic control that a bird or flock was spotted around the airport. He and Piper then jump in a truck toward the reported fowl. Edwards points and Piper runs to scare the birds away.
Edwards just says, "You going to go get 'em, bud?" Piper instantly goes into "launch mode," as he calls it.
Edwards first started training Piper when he was about 5 years old.
Edwards, who studied air traffic control in college, heard about a K-9 wildlife management program at Fort Meyers airport in Florida that employed a border collie to chase off wildlife.
"It was just a two-plus-two thing," he told BuzzFeed News. "I work at an airport. I have a border collie. Let's give it a shot."
Over a year, Edwards worked with Piper on his recall skills and off-leash control, which he quickly learned. Edwards also trained Piper to become accustomed to the sounds of aircrafts.
"To this day I can still teach him new things," said Edwards. "I definitely don't have the 'can't teach an old dog new tricks' problem with Piper."
Edwards said he's working with Piper on becoming accustomed to helicopters. He said he wants Piper to be prepared for any situation in case of an emergency.
Airport director Kevin Klein told BuzzFeed News that while the K-9 program is still in its infancy, he has noticed a reduction in wildlife around the area.
The airport also uses more traditional techniques to manage wildlife, like removing food and water sources. It also has reflectors and noisemakers to scare away any birds or other animals.
"You can do all that for many years but then the wildlife becomes accustomed to it," he said. "By adding Piper in, it's another tool in the toolbox to manage that wildlife habitat without doing any lethal taking of an animal."
Klein called the airport's wildlife K-9 team a "great model for all airports to follow" and credits the impressive duo for its success.
Edwards said he "loves every minute" of his work with Piper because it doesn't feel like a job.
Edwards and Piper's wildlife K-9 team is completely voluntary. They are funded by donations through their website.