Trainer Daniel Cone has flown exotic animals so many times that it is of little use to him. Although a sighting of a bald eagle at a North Carolina airport caught the eye this week, with a video of the security check going viral.
“Every time you work with an exotic animal like a bald eagle, you attract more attention,” Cone, the assistant director of the St. Louis-based World Bird Sanctuary, told ABC News. “I’ve traveled with this eagle so many times that I don’t even think about it anymore.”
The unexpected guest — a 19-year-old bird of prey named Clark — was captured Monday by a fellow traveler going through airport security at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
“Mans brings here a bald eagle through TSA at CLT Douglas,” Elijah Burke tweeted.
TSA in the spotlight the head-turning passenger on Thursday.
“TSA officers are used to seeing an eagle on their uniforms when they look over their shoulder, but I’m sure the @CLTAirport Checkpoint A team did a double shot when they saw a real eagle earlier this week, Mark Howell, the That writes a spokesperson for the TSA Southeast Region on Twitter.
Clark flies between five and seven times a year, Cone said, who was captured in the airfield photos and footage with the nearly 8-pound bird trapped.
In this case, they traveled back home to St. Louis on Southwest Airlines after helping to welcome new freshmen to High Point University. Clark has been coming to the school for more than a decade and is also a regular at the Veterans Day ceremony and graduation, Cone said.
Sanctuary trainers are usually taken to a back room as they move through security with their animals for more privacy, although in this case they were “a bit more out in the open,” Cone said.
“We don’t mind. Clark certainly doesn’t mind,” Cone said. ‘He’s a ham. He eats it.’
Howell told ABC News it is the airlines’ discretion when it comes to which animals they allow on commercial flights.
The airline informed TSA that the bald eagle would transit on Monday so that it could be prepared to conduct the screening.
TSA agents moved the bird to a separate lane, where it was removed from the carriage for screening before being returned, Howell said. Passengers were diverted to another lane, he said.
“People would probably be shocked by that,” he said. “We didn’t want to scare anyone at the checkpoint.”
Clark is trained to spread his wings and “showed off a little” during the screening, Howell said.
Cone said he always flies southwest with Clark and the reserve’s other bald eagles. They have a custom carrier for the birds that fits into the bulkhead of the cabin. Clark tends to get the most airtime, though Cone said he recently fled with a male endangered Egyptian vulture so he could breed at the San Diego Zoo.
Other unique animals Howell and his TSA colleagues remember going through airport security in recent years include zoo baby penguins, baby cougars and a long-feathered chicken that was painted pink, Howell said.
“It’s not an everyday occurrence,” he said. “It comes down to whether the airline is okay with it.”