An owl that escaped from the Central Park Zoo on February 2 has now learned to hunt for its own food, alleviating some concerns about how it would fare outside of captivity.
The zoo announced on February 3 that the Eurasian owl was maliciously released from its enclosure, which had been “vandalized and the stainless steel mesh cut.”
In a Sunday update, zoo staff said they had “observed him successfully hunting, catching and consuming prey.”
The update noted that zoo officials were originally unsure if the owl, named Flaco, would be able to feed itself but are now heartened to see it learning to hunt:
Since [the owl was released], our staff has intensely monitored the eagle owl each day and evening to document and observe his behavior and activity in Central Park. Several days ago, we observed him successfully hunting, catching and consuming prey. We have seen a rapid improvement in his flight skills and ability to confidently maneuver around the park. A major concern for everyone at the beginning was whether Flaco would be able to hunt and eat; that is no longer a concern.
The zoo also indicated that Flaco’s newly acquired hunting skills will require staff to devise new “recovery strategies” that do not involve “luring him to familiar food items.”
Happily, zoo officials wrote Flaco “seems to be comfortable in the area of the park where he has been hunting” and add they “don’t want to do anything to encourage him to leave this site.”
It is not clear what new methods the zoo might employ to recover the owl.
The zoo came close to capturing Flaco on Thursday, ABC 7 reported. This recovery attempt hinged on using a caged rat to tempt the owl to descend to the ground and enter a trap.
Unfortunately, while “The owl was briefly tangled in the trap,” it “flew away before zoo workers could capture him,” per ABC 7.
The Twitter account Manhatten Bird Alert posted a picture of Flaco “seconds before trying to grab the caged lab rat set out by zoo staff.”
Flaco the Eurasian Eagle-Owl tonight seconds before trying to grab the caged lab rat set out by zoo staff, briefly getting tangled in the loops of the trap, and then flying off before he could be netted on the Heckscher Fields of Central Park. pic.twitter.com/DxQSTt0RM8
— Manhattan Bird Alert (@BirdCentralPark) February 10, 2023
Similarly, the night Flaco escaped, the New York City Mayor’s Office posted a picture on Twitter that seemed to show an officer closing in on the owl.
New York’s Finest saves one of New York’s Flyest when an owl was trapped on 60th and 5th avenue! pic.twitter.com/9Y7JYpBeKD
— NYC Mayor’s Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) February 3, 2023
However, in an update the following day, the Mayor’s Office acknowledged “mid-rescue, the owl took off” and admonished New Yorkers, “If you see it, don’t spook it!”
The zoo acknowledges that Falco is not out of the woods yet, writing, “We are also aware that he faces potential challenges in this environment on a daily basis.”
Zoo officials say they “will continue to monitor him, though not as intensely, and look to opportunistically recover him when the situation is right.”
The update also includes a reminder that a criminal investigation is in the works regarding the “deliberate” actions that compromised Flaco’s enclosure.
“It is important to remember that this situation is the result of a deliberate criminal act which jeopardizes the safety of the bird and is still under investigation by the NYPD,” the statement read.
You can follow Michael Foster on Twitter at @realmfoster.
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