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Brad Matthews


NextImg:Beloved ‘Flaco’ owl dies a year after escaping Central Park Zoo

The Eurasian eagle owl “Flaco,” who flew the coop after his exhibit was vandalized at the Central Park Zoo, died Thursday after flying into a building. 

Flaco escaped on Feb. 2, 2023, and stayed in New York City. On Thursday, he was found dead on the ground after colliding with a building in Manhattan.

Flaco frequently had been seen in and near Central Park and other locations across Manhattan … Our staff monitored him throughout the year and were prepared to recover him if he showed any sign of difficulty or distress.  We appreciate all the support and concern over the well-being of Flaco throughout the past year,” the Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates the zoo, said in a release.

WCS also said that they hope the person responsible for vandalizing Flaco’s exhibit, allowing him to escape, is ultimately arrested.

“The vandal who damaged Flaco’s exhibit jeopardized the safety of the bird and is ultimately responsible for his death,” WCS said.

The specific cause of death will be determined following a necropsy. 

“Our initial exam and information from the scene indicated that Flaco had collided with a window. Whether there was an underlying cause, such as rodenticide, we don’t yet know,” the Wild Bird Fund, a New York City wildlife rehabilitation center whose staff recovered Flaco from beneath the building, said in a post on X.

In his time on the lam, Flaco became something of a local celebrity. After living 13 years in the zoo, he quickly adapted to preying on New York City’s rat population.

“To me, the folk hero is Flaco. It’s an amazing thing: He lives his whole life in captivity, and in a matter of days, he taught himself to fly and to hunt rats,” David Barrett, who runs an account following Manhattan’s birds on X, told the Associated Press earlier this month.

• Brad Matthews can be reached at bmatthews@washingtontimes.com.