Air Force Academy falcon injured in prank improving, able to fly in pen

The Air Force falcon injured in a service academy prank gone awry is showing improvement after fears the 22-year-old bird might have to be euthanized, the academy announced Sunday.

We are incredibly thankful to let everyone know Aurora is in good spirits and was able to fly around her pen this morning! She will see a specialist this afternoon to determine if x-rays are necessary, but this is an extremely good sign.

Aurora, a white gyrfalcon, was injured when abducted, reportedly by unidentified West Point cadets, ahead of Saturday’s Air Force-Army game in New York.

Air Force Academy officials were encouraged Sunday that the injuries to her wings weren’t as severe as first feared. After returning to Colorado, she was able to fly around in her pen, “an extremely good sign,” academy spokesman Troy Garnhart said (via the Colorado Springs Gazette).

She is expected to make a full recovery after she was examined by a master falconer and veterinarians at Fort Carson, the Gazette added.

Meantime, Army issued an apology Sunday for the failed prank:

“The U.S. Military Academy sincerely apologizes for an incident involving USMA cadets and the Air Force Academy falcons, which occurred Saturday,” said the post on West Point’s Facebook page. “We are taking this situation very seriously, and this occurrence does not reflect the Army or USMA core values of dignity and respect.

“An apology was given to the U.S. Air Force Academy for this unfortunate incident.”

The New York Times reported

Per the report:

(The cadets) threw sweaters over the birds, and later stuffed them into dog crates, (AFA falconry team adviser Sam Dollar) said.

The cadets turned the birds in on Saturday morning, but not before Aurora suffered abrasions that bloodied her wings, likely when she was thrashing inside the crate, Mr. Dollar said. Aurora’s injuries were not life-threatening, and she was to be examined by a veterinarian on Sunday, he said. Oblio did not sustain any obvious injuries.

“I think they had them for a couple hours and then they realized it was a bad mistake,” Mr. Dollar said. “When Aurora started thrashing around in the crate, they decided that wasn’t a good thing.”

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Aurora, described as “the grand dame of the school’s heralded falconry program,” can live to be 25 in captivity, according to the academy, and is one of a half-dozen birds managed by a dozen cadets.

The West Point cadets, if statutes were followed strictly to the letter, could face court martials under longstanding military law against animal abuse. A conviction under the law could potentially result in up to a year behind bars and a dishonorable discharge, according to the Gazette. It appears unlikely punishment will rise to that severity.

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