CENTRAL PARK, Manhattan (WABC) -- Flaco, the owl who escaped his enclosure from the Central Park Zoo earlier this month, is now hunting his own prey.
In an update Sunday, the zoo said the Eurasian Eagle Owl has been improving when it comes to flight skills and is becoming more comfortable in the natural habitat.
After initial concerns about whether he'd be able to hunt and eat, the zoo says they're no longer worried and no longer trying to capture him, for now.
Full statement below:
"Our Eurasian eagle owl, Flaco, went missing after his exhibit at the Central Park Zoo was vandalized on the evening of February 2nd. Since that first night, our staff has intensely monitored the eagle owl each day and evening to document and observe his behavior and activity in Central Park. Several days ago, we observed him successfully hunting, catching and consuming prey. 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.
"Since our recovery strategies thus far have all been based on luring him to familiar food items, we need to rethink our approach. 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. 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.
"Birders have been out in force and there are a lot of eyes on Flaco. We are confident that we will be able to track his movements as he continues to explore and expand his range. We thank everyone who is pulling for the eagle owl's safe recovery and understand the importance of good birding etiquette while observing and photographing him.
"It is important to remember that this situation is the result of a deliberate criminal act which jeopardizes the safety of the bird and is still under investigation by the NYPD."
Flaco was nearly captured last week but foiled the zoo's staff.
The owl was briefly tangled in the trap, but flew away before zoo workers could capture him.
New Yorkers have spotted Flaco flying out on Fifth Avenue and in Central Park since he broke free.
The Eurasian eagle-owl is one of the larger owl species with a wingspan of up to 79 inches (2 meters), according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. They have large talons and distinctive ear tufts.
The Eurasian eagle-owl is not native to North America, but native owl species including great horned owls and barred owls do frequent Central Park, where they dine on rats, mice and smaller birds.
Dustin Partridge, director of conservation and science for NYC Audubon, said he hopes Flaco's plight raises awareness of the fugitive bird's wild cousins. "There's a lot of owl life in the city," Partridge said. "If you've never seen an owl, they're majestic creatures."
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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