The Air Force Academy shared a statement announcing the death of Aurora, who was 23 years old
The U.S. Air Force Academy’s falcon mascot, Aurora, died on Wednesday. The beloved bird was 23 years old.
The Air Force shared lengthy statements on both Facebook and Twitter to announce the news and pay tribute to Aurora, who had been the academy’s longest-serving mascot, reigning for more than two decades.
“We are deeply saddened to announce that Aurora died earlier today,” the post began. “Aurora was the Academy’s longest-serving live mascot. In her 23 years at USAFA, she interacted with tens of thousands of people at sporting venues and military and community events. In addition to serving as an ambassador for USAFA, she was an ambassador for all falcons, helping us educate the public on the importance of these majestic birds.”
“Her impact on the nearly 30 class years of cadet falconers and Falconry Team support staff cannot be overstated,” the statement continued. “She was a feisty, spirited bird who commanded respect. We all feel her loss deeply.”
“This is a difficult day for many USAFA grads and members of the public who were lucky enough to spend any time with Aurora,” the Air Force added. “She was a beautiful falcon who greatly impressed all who saw her. We will especially remember the look of sheer delight on the faces of young kids who had the chance to pet her, and walked away with one of her info cards.”
According to the academy’s website, Aurora was a White Phase Gyrfalcon, the largest falcon species and extremely rare in the wild. Only 3 percent of falcons are gyrfalcons, and only 1 percent of them are white.
Aurora’s bio states that she weighed in at 3.5 lbs. She was given to the Air Force Academy as a “generous gift” from the Association of Graduates.
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Last year, Aurora was seriously injured after she and fellow falcon mascot, 15-year-old Oblio, were abducted and thrown into dog crates by West Point cadets in an attempt to prank their rivals.
According to the New York Times, Aurora “started thrashing around in the crate,” and the cadets finally freed the birds after they were locked in for hours. Aurora was examined by a veterinarian afterward, while Oblio did not sustain any obvious injuries.
The U.S. Military Academy publicly apologized after the incident and said that the two unnamed cadets would be disciplined.