Flaco, beloved owl who escaped Central Park Zoo year ago, dead: officials

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Flaco, the beloved Eurasian eagle owl who escaped the Central Park Zoo last year when his exhibit was vandalized, died Friday night.
The owl struck a building on West 89th Street in Manhattan, about two blocks away from Central Park, the Wildlife Conservation Society said.
Residents living in the Upper West Side building contacted members of the World Bird Fund to rescue Flaco.
5 Flaco died after he flew into a building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan Friday evening. AP
5 Flaco is seen sitting on an oak tree in Central Park weeks after escaping, on Feb. 15, 2023. Corbis via Getty Images
The organization found him unresponsive and later declared the owl who stole the hearts of New Yorkers dead.
His body was then transferred to the Bronx Zoo for a necropsy.
Flaco, who had been in captivity for 12 years, flew free from his enclosure at the Central Park Zoo last February when vandals targeted the exhibit.
Zoo officials said the suspects cut the enclosure’s stainless steel mesh.
“The vandal who damaged Flaco’s exhibit jeopardized the safety of the bird and is ultimately responsible for his death,” the Wildlife Conservation Society wrote.
“We are still hopeful that the NYPD, which is investigating the vandalism, will ultimately make an arrest.”
5 Zoo officials said the bird was able to escape after the suspects cut the enclosure’s stainless steel mesh. Courtesy of Jacqueline Emery
There were countless sightings of the owl around the Big Apple — as the bird slowly became a cherished icon — in the days following his escape.
The bird had foiled numerous attempts from being nabbed in the weeks following, including being lured in with bait and recordings of eagle-owl calls.
Officials decided Flaco could remain in the wild due to his ability to serve independently after multiple attempts to recapture the bird.
5 In the year since his dramatic escape, Flaco has become one of the city’s most beloved characters. AP
5 Flaco was able to fend for himself in the wild by hunting and feeding off of the many rats living in Central Park. AP
Though the Eurasian Eagle Owl is not native to North America, Flaco had been successfully feasting on the plentiful bounty of rats in Central Park and around the city since his escape.
“He has been very successful at hunting and consuming the abundant prey in the park,” the zoo said last year.
The Eurasian Eagle Owl is one of the larger owl species, with a wingspan of up to 79 inches and weighing three to nine pounds, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Both males and females are mottled buff-brown with dark bars on the breast, wings, and tail.
The owl’s lifespan is typically 10-20 years in the wild and up to 60 in captivity.
They are found in various wooded habitats throughout Europe, Asia, and parts of northern Africa.
The Eurasian Eagle Owl is not currently on the endangered species list but has been flagged as a “concerned” species given the decline in local populations worldwide.

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