Aurora, a white gyrfalcon Air Force mascot, sustained life-threatening injuries as a result of an army prank that went too far.
The prank was carried out by West Point cadets as a part of Air Force/Army week, according to Colorado Springs' newspaper, The Gazette.
JUST IN: Air Force’s live mascot, Aurora, has suffered potentially life-threatening injuries because of a West Poin… https://t.co/wr4fynWxPF— The Gazette (@The Gazette)1541281500.0
Academy sources said the 22-year-old falcon was "stolen" from an Army colonel's house before West Point's annual football game against rivals Army, in upstate New York.
Both of Aurora's wings were damaged while the cadets kept the live-mascot, but specifics as to how it happened was not disclosed.
Lt. Col Tracy Bunko gave a status update and was hopeful Aurora would recover from her injuries.
"USAFA mascot Aurora was injured over the weekend and is being transported back to Colorado."
"We have specialists at the academy who have the best training and facilities for her care. She is part of our academy family and we are all hoping for her full and speedy recovery."
Gyrfalcons like Aurora living in captivity can live up to 25 years, according to Teton Raptor Center.
But an anonymous Air Force official believes the falcon may have to be euthanized from the injuries due to her advanced age.
This set off a fury of indignation over the cadets' prank.
@si_ncaafb ANIMAL CRUELTY. ANIMAL CRUELTY. ANIMAL CRUELTY. ANIMAL CRUELTY. ANIMAL CRUELTY AND SHOULD BE PRO… https://t.co/lynS0vdNDG— 🍁🎃 Christi Says SHOW UP AND VOTE!!!!! 🎃🍁 (@🍁🎃 Christi Says SHOW UP AND VOTE!!!!! 🎃🍁)1541304942.0
@bell_rbell @si_ncaafb I hope so. I mean, the bird didn't do a DAMN THING to deserve this. It was THRIVING. They es… https://t.co/xbRvy7idZZ— 🍁🎃 Christi Says SHOW UP AND VOTE!!!!! 🎃🍁 (@🍁🎃 Christi Says SHOW UP AND VOTE!!!!! 🎃🍁)1541307477.0
@si_ncaafb Living animals are not toys, #USAFA. They feel pain, develop bonds & have natural preferences. We would… https://t.co/IbzqJtH93h— Michelle VoteNov6th (@Michelle VoteNov6th)1541351348.0
@si_ncaafb They should be dismissed from West Point. This shows cruelty and poor judgement that is not well-suited… https://t.co/ALBFSoChiQ— Catz Meow (@Catz Meow)1541353074.0
@si_ncaafb These pranks should stop.— D Willie (@D Willie)1541290050.0
@csgazette Living, breathing animals are not toys, #USAFA. They feel pain, they develop bonds, they have natural in… https://t.co/q6ZmrEc32A— Michelle VoteNov6th (@Michelle VoteNov6th)1541349487.0
Stealing mascots between Navy and Army rivals is a centuries-old tradition, with the most notable being West Point's kidnapping of the Navy's goat on November 22, 1953, according to Vice.
Aurora is one of half a dozen birds handled by a dozen cadets but was considered to be the grand dame of the flock as she has traveled with the cadets for two decades.
She is described as having a "well-known temper and flighty nature," which prevented the falcon from participating as a flying mascot. But Aurora was docile enough for people to get up close and pose for pictures.
@csgazette @woodypaige Stop with the live animals as mascots. Just use a guy in a big falcon suit.— Sith_happens (@Sith_happens)1541319697.0
The U.S. Air Force Fighter Pilots tweeted some good news in an update.
@si_ncaafb Aurora is back home and flying from perch to perch, doing well. https://t.co/e0zzbaqBmZ— U.S. Air Force Fighter Pilots (@U.S. Air Force Fighter Pilots)1541326818.0