Flaco's Laws introduced to New York City Council in honor of beloved Central Park owl

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Thursday, April 11, 2024
Flaco's Laws introduced to NYC Council in honor of beloved owl
Lindsay Tuchman has details on New York City's roll out of a new set of laws to protect birds.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A New York City Councilman introduced a package of bills in honor of the beloved celebrity owl who died after surviving in the wild on his own for more than a year after leaving the Central Park Zoo.

Elected officials, scientists, bird experts and New Yorkers held a City Hall rally Thursday to announce the introduction of the historic package of bills.

Flaco died after eating pigeons infected with virus and was exposed to rat poison before flying into an Upper West Side building on Feb. 23.

Council Member Shaun Abreu introduced the first of three pieces of "Flaco's Laws" to stem unnecessary bird deaths like Flaco's. One part of the bill would require the health department to replace rat poison with rat birth control.

"Flaco's autopsy confirmed our worst fears: he ingested a fatal dose of rat poison. Rodenticides are not only toxic for the animals we love, they are increasingly ineffective at reducing rat infestations. It's time we put new practices in place to build a better, safer, more eco-friendly city," said Abreu said. "We can't poison our way out of the rat problem, but we can certainly do a lot of damage trying."

Another bill would address light pollution and reflective windows on buildings that disorient birds.

This photo provided by David Lei shows Flaco the owl, April 28, 2023, in New York.
Courtesy David Lei via AP

Flaco was freed from his cage at the Central Park Zoo in early 2023 by a vandal who breached a waist-high fence and cut a hole through a steel mesh cage. The owl had arrived at the zoo as a fledgling 13 years earlier.

Zoo officials and his fans were at first worried about his survival, but he soon proved adept at catching rats and other prey. The zoo later suspended efforts to re-capture him after failed attempts.

Flaco's death was a heartbreaking end for the birders who documented his daily movements and the legions of admirers who followed along, as people posted photos and videos of the majestic owl with a nearly 6-foot wingspan perched on tree branches, fence posts, fire escapes and water towers - as well as his hours of hooting.

In addition to the package of bills introduced Thursday, a tattoo parlor in Brooklyn offered discounted tattoos of the beloved bird from noon to 7 p.m. They were offered at East River Tattoo in Greenpoint and cost $150 with tips donated to the Wild Bird Fund.

"It's something that people connect to on a personal level and just their own struggle to exist in a challenging place to live," said tattoo artist Duke Riley.

The package of bills will eventually go through the Sanitation Committee before going to a committee and then will be voted on.

Efforts are also underway to put a statue of Flaco in Central Park.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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