People Are Mourning The Death Of Flaco, The Owl That Escaped From The Central Park Zoo And Thrived

Flaco was born in captivity, one of the owls found in the Central Park Zoo. But when his enclosure was vandalized in February of 2023, he escaped. There were attempts to get him back, but he evaded capture, becoming one of New York City’s most beloved non-human citizens, much like the park’s Mandarin Duck. Sadly, after a year of freedom, Flaco died, leading to much mourning.

Per The New York Times, the Wildlife Conservation Society released a statement saying the Eurasian eagle-owl appeared to have collided with a building on the Upper West Side, on West 89th Street. Zoo employees took his body to the Bronx Zoo, where a necropsy will be performed. Next month he would have turned 14 months.

Flaco escaped from the zoo on February 2 of last year after vandals shredded the mesh on his enclosure. The Wildlife Conservation Society was not pleased with his escape.

“The vandal who damaged Flaco’s exhibit jeopardized the safety of the bird and is ultimately responsible for his death,” the society said in its statement. “We are still hopeful that the N.Y.P.D., which is investigating the vandalism, will ultimately make an arrest.”

No one was ever arrested, nor was Flaco ever captured. There were fears that he couldn’t survive on his own. But survive he did, and he began attracting attention of the city’s citizenry, becoming a fixture of social media.

Still, Flaco’s life was always at risk, as NYT explained. Millions of birds across America fly into windows after failing to perceive them as glass. There’s risk of contracting rodenticide, of snatching up a poisoned rat that’s become sluggish and therefore and easy target. When Barry, another celebrity Central Park Zoo owl, died in 2021, she was found to have high levels of rat poison in her system.

Whether the collision killed Flaco or whether other factors were involved will be known after the necropsy is performed.

Being a beloved New Yorker, Flaco was mourned after his passing. “Rest In Peace, my upper Manhattan neighbor, Flaco,” wrote comedian Frank Coniff. “I hope somewhere in the afterlife, Millie and Barney are having a staring contest with you.”

“I I love you flaco. You will always be a free bird,” wrote writer Noah Hurowitz.

“Flaco, you gave so much joy to many of us,” wrote Vee Nabong. “I’m glad you experienced life outside an enclosure during the one short year that you were free. We will miss you terribly, your hoots , stretches, cute Flaco expressions and many fly outs in the evenings.”

“I’m so sad about Flaco,” wrote author Francesca Serritella. This charming owl was inspiring with his courage and adaptability, a poignant figure of wildness and wonder in this city that wants for both. And I loved when his little ear tufts caught the wind.”

(Via NYT)