CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Yeager Airport in Charleston is located on top of a mountain, posing as a unique challenge. The runway often sees wildlife which can be a hazard, but they’ve come up with a solution.
“When I come into work in the morning, it’s like everybody else wants to get a cup of coffee, but Herc does not give me any time to even drink coffee. He’s wanting to go and run the birds. He’s always excited to see me and I’m always excited to see him,” said Christopher Keiser, Wildlife Specialist at Yeager Airport.
Keiser says Hercules the border collie, or as some may call him, the “Yeager Mascot”, clears 75% of wildlife from the runway, helping planes land safely, but he’s about to turn five this year, and it’s time for another dog to help him do his work.
“Our hope is by getting that second wildlife dog we can kind of alleviate some of his duties and get him the help he needs because we do want Hercules to live a very long, happy, healthy life,” said Rachel Urbanski, Public Affairs Specialist at Yeager Airport.
Urbanski says getting a second dog is a process, but a safety priority.
“Hercules came from Fly Away Geese and his training was about a year, so when the time is right to get a dog, we’re going to have to contact them and it’ll take a year to train that dog,” said Urbanski.
When Hercules clears wildlife off the runway, he can run as fast as 35 miles per hour.
Getting another dog and training can be costly, but with the help of a wildlife fund and grant money provided by the Kanawha County Commission, they hope to add another dog to defend the runway and add to the smiles Hercules has put on so many faces.
“He likes to put a smile on people’s faces. They can have a bad day or be worried about something, but Herc seems like he can just come in and give them comfort,” said Keiser.
Urbanski says the airport hopes to apply for the grant to get a second wildlife dog within the next year.