A New York owl learned to hunt on its own after escaping from the Central Park Zoo.
Flaco, a 13-year-old eagle owl, flew the coop on February 2 after a stranger vandalized his enclosure, cutting the wire netting that prevented the bird from flying away. THE zoo mobilized to try to take back Flaco, fearing that he could not survive on his own. Born in captivity, the owl had never learned to hunt, leading to fears it was starving.
Meanwhile, the growing herd of Flaco fans chronicled their journey on social media, including the Manhattan Bird Alert Twitter Account. (This account also took a bit of heat for publicizing Flaco’s whereabouts, with critics noting that crowds gathering to get a glimpse of the eagle-owl could hamper the zoo’s recovery efforts.)
But on Sunday, the zoo released a hopeful update on the autonomy of Flaco. It seems that the owl familiarized itself with the ways of nature and managed to catch its prey on its own.
“Several days ago, we observed it successfully hunting, catching and consuming prey,” the statement read. “We saw a rapid improvement in his flying skills and his ability to maneuver confidently around the park.”
Due to this development, the zoo said it would be scaling back on its efforts to trap Flaco, although it would continue to “monitor” him and possibly recapture him in the future.
“We will continue to monitor him, but not as intensely, and seek to recover him opportunistically when the situation is right.”
Although he has proven capable of feeding himself, Flaco still faces challenges and dangers on his own.
“He may not have all the skills and stamina necessary for life in the wild,” said Richard Simon, director of the city’s parks department wildlife unit. told the New York Times.
And one of the main dangers for Flaco is one that also threatens the town’s native owls: rat poison. Rodenticides move up the food chain, and predators like owls can die from eating poisoned rodents. In 2021, a barred owl named Barry was killed in a collision with a park truck. Investigators later discovered that Barry had a high level of rat poison in his systemwhich could have impaired his flying abilities and led to the accident.