updated 10/31/2008 4:27:49 PM ET 2008-10-31T20:27:49

A Delta baggage worker got a bit of a fright when she opened a jetliner's cargo door and found a cheetah running loose amid the luggage.

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Delta spokeswoman Betsy Talton said Friday that two cheetahs were being flown in the cargo area of a passenger flight from Portland, Ore., to Atlanta a day earlier when one escaped from its cage.

Talton said the airline summoned help from an Atlanta zoo. Experts rushed to a closed airport hangar and tranquilized both animals and took them back to the zoo.

Talton said the airline is now working to get the big cats back to their owners. She declined to identify the owners, citing Delta's privacy rules.

The good news for passengers: The cheetah did not damage any of their luggage.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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