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Flaco, who famously escaped NYC's Central Park Zoo, has died

"Just seeing pictures of him made me happy. I know many New Yorkers felt the same way. Forever Soar, Flaco," actor Lou Diamond Phillips wrote about the owl on X.

Flaco, the Eurasian eagle owl who escaped from its vandalized enclosure at the Central Park Zoo sits on a tree branch in the north west area of Central Park on February 20, 2023, in New York City. He died Friday after colliding with a building. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
1 of 2 | Flaco, the Eurasian eagle owl who escaped from its vandalized enclosure at the Central Park Zoo sits on a tree branch in the north west area of Central Park on February 20, 2023, in New York City. He died Friday after colliding with a building. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Flaco, the Eurasian Eagle owl who escaped New York City's Central Park Zoo a year ago, has died after crashing into a building on West 89th Street in Manhattan.

The owl flew out into the wild after his exhibit was vandalized in February 2023, but tourists and locals alike spotted and photographed him countless times throughout the city, making him an unlikely social media star, and inspiring fan art and merchandise bearing his likeness.

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The biography for his X page reads: "Eurasian Eagle Owl. Central Park's It Bird & Finally Free. New York's new rat czar. Try to find me. Catch all my updates here. DM me your pictures!"

The zoo confirmed the sad news of his death on Friday.

"The downed owl was reported to the Wild Bird Fund by people in the building. Staff from the WBF quickly responded, retrieved the non-responsive owl and declared him dead shortly afterward. The WBF notified zoo staff who picked up the bird and transported him to the Bronx Zoo for necropsy," the zoo said in a press release on Friday.

"The vandal who damaged Flaco's exhibit jeopardized the safety of the bird and is ultimately responsible for his death. We are still hopeful that the NYPD, which is investigating the vandalism, will ultimately make an arrest," the statement added. "Flaco frequently had been seen in and near Central Park and other locations across Manhattan since Feb. 2, 2023. Our staff monitored him throughout the year and were prepared to recover him if he showed any sign of difficulty or distress."

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Film and TV star Lou Diamond Phillips honored the owl on X Friday.

"Heartbroken. Flaco was an inspiration," he said. "His tenacity and will a sheer joy to experience. Something wild and free and determined to persevere. Just seeing pictures of him made me happy. I know many New Yorkers felt the same way. Forever Soar, Flaco."

The New York City Audobon Society also mourned the loss of Flaco on X.

"Absolutely heartbreaking news to share. Flaco, the beloved Eurasian Eagle-Owl who escaped from the Central Park Zoo after his exhibit was vandalized in 2023, passed away this evening after colliding with a building or window on Manhattan's Upper West Side," the group said.

"After arriving in Central Park, Flaco delighted so many NYers, both seasoned birders and people who have never held binoculars, with his magnetic appearances across NYC. He meant so much to so many, and will be sorely missed by NYC Audubon & wildlife lovers everywhere."

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