Flaco the Escaped Central Park Zoo Owl Remains At Large and Is Now Hunting for Food in N.Y.C.

The rare Eurasian eagle owl escaped his enclosure at the Central Park Zoo on Feb. 2; since then, zoo officials have kept an eye on the bird, who has a growing fanbase in New York City

This photo, provided by the Wildlife Conservation Society, shows a Eurasion eagle-owl named Flaco that escaped from New York's Central Park Zoo after someone vandalized its exhibit by cutting through stainless steel mesh, zoo officials said . It was spotted on Fifth Avenue, then flew back into the park Friday morning and remained high up in a tree there for much of the day Escaped Owl Central Park, New York, United States - 03 Feb 2023
Photo: Julie Larsen Maher/AP/Shutterstock

Flaco the owl is proving the naysayers wrong!

The rare Eurasian eagle owl, who escaped from his vandalized enclosure at the Central Park Zoo in New York City earlier this month, is adapting to life in the "wild," despite initial concerns that the bird wouldn't have the street sense — or rather, hunting skills — to survive outside the zoo.

Since Feb. 2, the bird has taken up residency in Central Park, most recently in the trees along "Billionaires' Row" on Central Park South, according to ABC News.

In an update on Sunday, the zoo shared that staff members are keeping a watchful eye on the bird and have taken comfort in the fact that he has been able to find food on his own.

"Several days ago, we observed him successfully hunting, catching, and consuming prey," the zoo said in a statement. "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."

Zoo officials aren't the only ones watching the bird like a hawk.

Eurasian eagle-owl named Flaco sits in a tree in Central Park in New York, . The owl, who resided at the Central Park Zoo, flew the coop after someone vandalized its exhibit by cutting through stainless steel mesh. Zoo officials say Flaco was discovered missing at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and remained on the loose Monday Escaped Owl Central Park, New York, United States - 06 Feb 2023
Seth Wenig/AP/Shutterstock

Onlookers crowd the park daily to observe New York City's latest celebrity bird as his adventure outside the zoo nears the two-week mark.

"I just wanted to see him. I just think it's really fun," Jen Roff, an economics professor at The City University of New York, told ABC News. "I think he's beautiful. He's gorgeous."

After trying to recover the owl to no avail, the zoo is now taking on a more patient strategy.

"Since our recovery strategies, thus far, have all been based on luring him to familiar food items, we need to rethink our approach," zoo officials said. "Our main concern has always been for the well-being of the eagle owl. Our observations indicate that he seems to be comfortable in the area of the park where he has been hunting, and we don't want to do anything to encourage him to leave this site."

The zoo added: "We will continue to monitor him, though not as intensely, and look to opportunistically recover him when the situation is right."

Flaco's saga comes on the heels of other zoo vandalism incidents across the country.

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The Dallas Zoo has reported several missing animals since the start of 2023, beginning with a 4-year-old clouded leopard named Nova, who first went missing on Jan. 13 — and is now safely back at the zoo. An investigation by the Dallas Police Department on Jan. 16 showed that a cutting tool was used to make an opening in the fencing surrounding the animal's habitat.

Last week, Houston Zoo officials found a four-inch gap in the mesh of a pelican habitat at its Children's Zoo, but all animals were found secure.

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