Who freed Flaco? One year later, celebrity owl’s escape from Central Park Zoo remains a mystery

This New York love story starts with a criminal act of sabotage.

A year ago Friday, under the cover of darkness, someone broke through a waist-high fence and entered the Central Park Zoo. 

Once inside, they cut a hole in a steel mesh cage, releasing Flaco, a majestic Eurasian eagle-owl who had arrived at the zoo as a fledgling 13 years ago.

Flaco bolted from the park, blinking his large orange eyes at people and cops on Fifth Avenue before disappearing into the darkness.

In the year since his daring escape, Flaco has become one of the city's most beloved characters. By day,

she lounges in Manhattan's courtyards and parks, or sits on fire escapes. He spends his nights hooting from water towers and preying on the city's plentiful rodents.

To the amazement of many experts, Flaco is prospering amid the urban jungle. An apex predator with a wingspan of over 6 feet (2 meters),

she has demonstrated qualities that some believed he had not developed after a lifetime in captivity, gamely exploring new neighborhoods and unexpectedly appearing at New Yorkers' windows.

"He was the underdog from the beginning." People didn't expect him to live," said Jacqueline Emery

one of several birders who photograph the owl's daily activities and share them with his millions of admirers. "New Yorkers especially connect to him because of his resilience

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