Wolves kill falcon that flew into enclosure during Hogle Zoo performance

Posted at 2:17 PM, May 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-10 20:16:33-04

SALT LAKE CITY - The Hogle Zoo got a firsthand lesson in the circle of life this week.

A 17-year-old falcon at made a deadly deviation from its routine while performing in the "World of Flight" bird show Sunday, and landed in the wolf enclosure.

A witness said a wolf poked the bird a few times before attacking and killing it.

The witness said a bird zookeeper ran over yelling but there wasn't much they could do at that point.

According to the zoo, the falcon had $1,000 of equipment on it at the time.

The "World of Flight" show's creator, Steve Chindgren, said he opens every performance with "Max," the African Lanner falcon and has for the last 10 years.

Chindgren, who has put on the show at the Hogle Zoo for 23 years, said this was a fluke for the experienced bird.

Zoo officials said they are devastated to lose the prized falcon they have grown close to during training over the years.

Max has helped raise $1.5 million in donations for wildlife conservation efforts by performing in these shows, Chindgren said.

"That's the whole purpose of the bird show, is to hope that seeing these amazing birds inspires all of us to take better care of our world," Chindgren said.

Tiffany Young says her friend was at Hogle Zoo on Sunday morning.

“She was watching the wolves and noticed a bird in the enclosure," she said. "There were several other people around who realized this is not going to end well, it’s not flying away, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.”

Young is the founder of Ducks and Clucks Rescue. She says she’s disturbed by what happened to Max.

“This was not a natural environment," Young said. "This is a captive exhibit animal eating another captive exhibit animal.”

She tells Fox 13 she plans to file a lawsuit with the USDA, which will warrant an inspection of Hogle Zoo.

“My heart does go out to the bird caretakers," she said. "I do hope that they look at any policies or safety measures they can take that would help to prevent this from happening again.”

Hogle Zoo’s spokesperson Erica Hansen says because it was an unforeseeable accident, they will not be inspected.

The Hogle Zoo has detailed the "World of Flight" show online:

The show features eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, parrots often flying directly over the heads of the audience during the 25-minute presentation. The show also offers several opportunities for audience participation and afterwards guests can get up close and personal with some of the birds and their trainers.