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Flaco, escaped owl from Central Park Zoo, is hunting on his own — proving he can survive in the wild

Owl that escaped Central Park Zoo almost caught Thursday night
Owl that escaped Central Park Zoo almost caught Thursday night 00:26

The bird that escaped the Central Park Zoo in New York City is hunting on its own, despite previous concerns, zoo officials said. Flaco, an Eurasian eagle owl, went missing after its exhibit was vandalized earlier this month.

Zoo officials have been monitoring the bird's behavior in Central Park. They were concerned he wouldn't be able to find food or live in the wild since he is used to captivity, but several days ago, they saw him hunting and eating prey. 

"We have seen a rapid improvement in his flight skills and ability to confidently maneuver around the park," the zoo said in a media release. "A major concern for everyone at the beginning was whether Flaco would be able to hunt and eat; that is no longer a concern."

An owl sits in a tree.
An eagle owl that escaped the Central Park Zoo is still on the loose. Twitter user Molly_Bangles

The zoo has tried to catch Flaco by luring him using familiar food items, but they are now re-thinking that approach. 

"Our main concern has always been for the well-being of the eagle owl," said Max Pulsinelli, executive director of communications for the Wildlife Conservation Society's Zoos and Aquarium. The WCS operates multiple zoos in New York City, including the Central Park Zoo. 

"Our observations indicate that he seems to be comfortable in the area of the park where he has been hunting, and we don't want to do anything to encourage him to leave this site," Pulsinelli said, adding that the eagle owl still faces potential challenges. 

The zoo will continue to monitor him, although not as intensely, and will try to recover him when the time is right. 

"Birders have been out in force and there are a lot of eyes on Flaco," Pulsinelli said. "We are confident that we will be able to track his movements as he continues to explore and expand his range. We thank everyone who is pulling for the eagle owl's safe recovery and understand the importance of good birding etiquette while observing and photographing him."

Photographs show crowds of birdwatchers and park-goers looking for Flaco through binoculars or telescopes. 

Members of the New York Police Department spotted the bird on 5th Avenue, near Central Park, the day after he escaped. A small crowd formed, "but he had enough of his growing audience & flew off" before they could catch him, police said. Flaco has been spotted several times in the park since then.

Pulsinelli said Flaco escaped as a result of "a deliberate criminal act which jeopardizes the safety of the bird." The stainless steel mesh of the exhibit had been cut, the zoo said in a statement. The NYPD is still investigating the incident. 

A similar incident at the Dallas Zoo made headlines this month. Holes were cut in several exhibits at the zoo and two tamarin monkeys were found at an abandoned house after their enclosure was vandalized. Days later, police arrested 24-year-old Davion Irvin, who was charged with one count of burglary and six counts of animal cruelty — three for each monkey – and one burglary charge in relation to the escape of a clouded leopard named Nova, who was discovered missing Jan. 13. after a cut was found in her enclosure.

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