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Eurasian eagle owl missing from Central Park Zoo spotted in Central Park tree

Owl escapes habitat at Central Park Zoo
Owl escapes habitat at Central Park Zoo 01:47

NEW YORK -- Central Park Zoo officials are continuing their efforts to rescue an owl that escaped its habitat last night.

In Central Park, bird enthusiasts are watching closely. 

Upper East Side resident David Barrett came out to Central Park early Friday morning to his eyes on the Eurasian eagle owl, perched up in a tree. 

"It's not native to the United States. It's accustomed to this kind of cold because it lives in some areas that get this cold. It's one of the world's largest owls," Barrett said. 

Central Park Zoo officials say they noticed the owl was gone Thursday night around 8:30 p.m. The bird's exhibit had been vandalized - the mesh cut open. 

The owl was not missing for long. It was spotted later in the evening on the sidewalk along Fifth Avenue. 

Several people were glad the owl was now in the open, but bird enthusiasts says the owl's safety is at risk. 

"The owl has been in captivity, from what I understand, for years. So it's been fed. It hasn't had to hunt for prey, and it probably hasn't had to fly long distances, or much at all," Barrett said. 

"That's why, when it was first sighted last night on Fifth Avenue, it was just sitting on the ground, and didn't even walk away. Because it didn't know what to do," said bird enthusiast Anke Frohlich.

The owl perched in a tree in Central Park for several hours, where it was watched by zoo officials and onlookers. 

"I hope they'll catch it safely," Frohlich said. 

A wildlife biologist came to offer assistance, should the zoo need it. 

"I'm familiar with this owl, and I'm a licensed New York state falconer," said Kai Victor. 

His strategy? Placing a trap with live bait on the ground, he says, to get the bird to fly down from the tree. 

"We want this bird to come back to captivity, so hopefully it'll be OK and not get eaten or injured by any other birds," Victor said. 

Central Park Zoo says it's focus is recovering the owl safely. 

Leah Mishkin contributed to this report. 

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