DULLES, Va. – A Transportation Security Administration canine handler got a new temporary partner when he teamed up with a groundhog at Washington Dulles International Airport recently.
TSA Explosives Detection Canine Handler Shelby Tibbs rescued a groundhog who he spotted scurrying around the airport runway at Washington Dulles International Airport as he finished a round of training with his canine Dux, a German Short-Haired Pointer.
Tibbs spotted the groundhog run for cover and was concerned for the safety of the
animal, so he drove to where he spotted the groundhog, who he said appeared to be suffering under the hot sun. “It was really hot that day and the tarmac felt like more than 100 degrees” with the heat index, he said.
“I ran him down, wrapped the leash around him several times and picked him up.” Tibbs was careful to wrap the leash in the groundhog’s mouth so it would not bite. Tibbs has a background in animal control, has his rabies inoculation and was very careful handling the animal so as not to harm him.
Dux stayed in Tibbs’s air conditioned truck while he worked with personnel from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Operations division to transport the groundhog to a creek just outside airport property where the animal was safely released, he said.
“I think he wanted to catch a flight to someplace cold because it was very hot that day. I guess he couldn’t buy a ticket,” he joked. “But he was a very good passenger while we drove to the nearby creek.”
Wildlife on airport runways are a risk to their safety and to the safety of airplanes and other vehicles that move along airport operations areas along the tarmac and runways.
Tibbs said he was glad to lend a help to the lost groundhog. Airport personnel have since dubbed him the “Groundhog Whisperer.”