A Petition Seeks to Honor Flaco the Owl With a Central Park Statue

The bird died earlier this year, more than a year after his escape.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 3: New Yorkers hold a memorial for Flaco, the Eurasian Eagle owl who died last week, leaving cards in his memory under a tree where he often roosted, March 3, 2024 in Central Park, New York City, New York. Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Flaco, the Eurasian Eagle-Owl that escaped confinement at the Central Park Zoo and was allowed to live in the wild, could soon receive a statue in his honor in New York’s Central Park.

The spirited bird of prey went on the lam in February 2023, when his stainless steel mesh enclosure was cut, UPI reported at the time. The city mobilized police officers and park rangers to track him down. He defied capture for weeks, proving successful at hunting prey in the park, until the Central Park Zoo ultimately said he would be allowed to keep his freedom as authorities continued to monitor his activities in the wild, while being prepared to step in if he showed signs of distress.

Birdwatchers flocked to the city to try to snag photos of the escaped owl as he became a national phenomenon; art and merchandise bearing images of him abounded. Some, however, did question the introduction of a large nonnative bird of prey in the city’s most significant park.

Sadly, Flaco died on February 23—more than a year after his escape. His death was caused by crashing into a building on West 89th Street on the Upper West Side.

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

Now, a petition started to honor Flaco with a statue in the park has received more than 4,100 signatures. The petition was started by Mike Hubbard, a 34-year-old musician, and writer Brandon Borror-Chappell.

“He was and remains a testament to the virtues of resilience and self-reinvention,” the petition reads. “It was not Flaco’s fault that someone cut a hole in his enclosure. Drawn to the sights and sounds of the city he had only imagined for the first 13 years of his life, he ventured out and learned why he had wings. We will all miss him (we do not speak for the rats, who surely will tell terrifying tales of his fearsome talons to future generations).”

The petition asks the New York City Council to commission a pedestal with a branch protruding and a life size Flaco statue perched upon it, located near the tree across from the compost in the northwest quadrant of the park where he roosted most often.

Nancy Llewellyn, a docent at the zoo, was among those who expressed support for the petition, writing that she knew Flaco for years and loved him. “I was happy that he seemed happy but I am saddened by his passing,” she said.


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