COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Air Force Academy’s proud mascot is an absolute diva.
Or at least that’s how cadets describe her.
“She’s kind of got an attitude. She kind of knows she’s the queen bee of the Academy,” said one cadet.
Aurora has been Air Force’s top falcon for the past 22 years. She’s lived almost twice as long as most falcons in the wild, and has earned her reputation.
However, it seems as if cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point didn’t get that memo.
Last weekend during the Army-Air Force rivalry football game, members of the Army Black Knights “birdnapped” Aurora.
She was later returned, but was injured. It’s still unclear whether those cadets will face any disciplinary action for stealing the falcon.
“You can see she has just a couple little spots on the front of her wings where there was a little residual blood from some minor injuries,” explained Jennifer Alexander, the Air Force Academy’s Falconry Officer in Charge.
The prank ruffled Air Force’s feathers, and understandably so when you realize just how remarkable the birds are.
“They all have their own personalities and their own reactions to different things,” said one of the falconry cadets.
There are 10 falcons in the Academy’s falconry program and cadets say getting to work with the birds is a big honor.
Around 50 cadets compete each year to enter the program but only four are selected.
“Probably the greatest feeling I’ve ever had, maybe 2nd to getting into the Academy itself,” said one cadet.
The cadets spend hours working with the falcons, training them how to hunt.
“It’s like a game of cat and mouse and it can be kind of nerve racking because they’re doing their best to try and get it and it can go pretty fast,” explained one of the cadets in the program.
Witnessing that game of cat and mouse is a majestic sight and it’s one Aurora loves watching too.
And the 22-year-old “queen bee” is now back on her throne where she belongs.