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“Heartbroken:” Beloved falcon flies off-course during show at zoo, lands in wolf den

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — For the past two decades, Steve Chindgren has trained birds to perform at Hogle Zoo for the popular “World of Flight” bird show. Maximus, a lanner falcon, is a big part of their success.

“We always open with Max. He’s the first bird in the show. He’s spectacular. He’s wowed audiences here for 10 years,” Chindgren said.

Max’s performance ended abruptly on Sunday, May 7th. He began his routine at a box on top of a hill. He was supposed to swoop back down to the theater, but for some reason, he went off-course, and landed in the wolf’s den.

“My friend said she was visiting the zoo Sunday morning and was watching the wolves and noticed a bird in the enclosure. 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,'” Tiffany Young, founder of Ducks and Clucks Rescue said.

“We were very heartbroken,” Chindgren said.

Chindgren spent countless hours training Max. He said in the 23 years they have put on the show, something like this has never happened. However, this isn’t the first time Max has ventured off-course.

“Things at the top of the food chain eat things at the bottom of the food chain. Big hawks eat little hawks. That’s what predators do. It’s nature,” Chindgren said. “One recovery — we ended up getting back north of Coalville, Utah. In order to find him, we had to rent an airplane. Finally when we got over the mountains east of Park City, we picked up a radio signal again.”

Young said she’s disturbed by what happened to Max, and said she plans to file a complaint with the USDA, which will warrant an inspection of Hogle Zoo.

“I know that they’re doing the best job they can, but it’s outside entities that may give tips or suggestions to make sure this does not happen again,” Young said.

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