An owl that escaped from the Central Park Zoo after someone ripped his enclosure open is hunting on its own, despite previous concerns it might not, zoo officials said.
Flaco, a Eurasian eagle owl, flew off Feb. 2 after his exhibit was vandalized in New York City.
After his escape, zoo officials expressed concern Flaco might not hunt and could starve.
But by Sunday, the bird’s survival instincts had kicked in enough for the Wildlife Conservation Society – the non-profit organization which operates the zoo – to ease up its intense efforts to nab the bird back.
“Several days ago, we observed him successfully hunting, catching and consuming prey,” the zoo wrote in a statement obtained by USA TODAY. “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.”
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What did Flaco eat?
The New York Times reported Flaco had coughed up a pellet of animal matter – rat fur and bones – in Central Park.
Flaco’s ability to catch his own food caused officials to “rethink our approach” to returning him to the zoo, the zoo statement continues. “Flaco also showed “a rapid improvement in his flight skills and ability to confidently maneuver around the park.”
“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 statement said. “We are also aware that he faces potential challenges in this environment on a daily basis. We will continue to monitor him, though not as intensely, and look to opportunistically recover him when the situation is right.”
Zoo officials reported Flaco escaped after the exhibit was vandalized and the stainless steel mesh cut.
No charges or arrest have been announced in the case that the zoo said remained under investigation by the New York Police Department on Wednesday.
Last week, a small crowd spotted Flaco in an oak tree surveying ice skaters at Wollman Rink in the park’s Hallett Nature Sanctuary.
Flaco then flew to a shopping hub on Fifth Avenue, where police officers first attempted to catch him and failed.
Flaco returned “home” the next morning and has since been successful in dodging recapture efforts – soaring from tall trees at various locations in the southeast section of the park.
The next day, zoo spokesperson Max Pulsinelli expressed concerned Flaco might not be able to hunt and could starve, as no one had seen him eat on the run.
Good boy, Flaco.
Contributing: Camille Fine, USA TODAY
Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.
Story Credit: usatoday.com