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The Worst Case of Herpes Ever: Flaco, the NYC Owl Who ate Himself into an Early Grave

In the bustling heart of New York City, a tale of survival and resilience unfolded, ending in a terrible tragedy partly due to an STD. This is the story of Flaco, a Eurasian eagle-owl, whose spirit was as indomitable as the city he called home. Tragically, he became a symbol of one of the most devastating cases of avian herpes in history.

Flaco’s Journey: From North Carolina to the Big Apple

Flaco was far from your average city dweller. Born in a bird park in North Carolina in 2010, this male Eurasian eagle-owl soon found himself in the heart of the concrete jungle – the Central Park Zoo in New York City. For over 12 years, he lived in captivity, his home no larger than a bus stop, adorned with faux rocks, a handful of branches, and a painted backdrop.

In February 2023, Flaco’s life took a dramatic turn. After someone cut the protective netting of his enclosure, Flaco seized the opportunity and escaped. His daring escape drew significant attention from the public and press, especially given that his species is not native to North America. Little did Flaco know that his new found freedom would lead to his untimely demise.

Flaco’s Unusual Diet: A Silent Killer

Like many owls, Flaco was a predator. His diet primarily consisted of rats, a common sight in the city. However, the rats in New York City are often exposed to rat poison, a fact that had a profound impact on Flaco’s health.

The poison, while not immediately lethal to larger predators like Flaco, can accumulate in their bodies over time, leading to a host of health issues. In Flaco’s case, the constant ingestion of poisoned rats weakened his immune system, making him susceptible to various diseases.

An Unexpected Turn: How Flaco Got’s Owl Herpes

Flaco’s weakened immune system opened the door to an unexpected ailment: herpes. This disease, while common in pigeons, is rare in owls. However, Flaco’s unusual diet included not just rats, but also a significant number of pigeons.

The combination of a weakened immune system and exposure to infected pigeons led to Flaco contracting what would become the worst case of herpes ever seen in an owl. The disease took a significant toll on Flaco, affecting his eyesight and causing visible sores.

The Fight for Recovery: A Battle Lost

Flaco’s story took a tragic turn when he collided with a building in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Despite the immediate trauma from the collision, a postmortem examination revealed that Flaco had severe underlying conditions that would have likely proved fatal regardless.

The examination found that Flaco had been exposed to four different rat poisons commonly used to control New York’s booming rodent population. He also had contracted a severe pigeon-borne illness from his diet of feral pigeons. Pigeons can carry the virus and remain healthy, but it causes a fatal disease in birds of prey, such as owls, once they consume infected pigeons.

Lessons from Flaco’s Story: A Legacy of Resilience

Despite the challenges he faced, Flaco’s spirit remained inspirational until the end. His story is a tragic example of the intricate connections within our urban ecosystems, and the unintended consequences of human actions on our wildlife.

Flaco’s life and struggle will be remembered for the fact that he fought for his freedom, and reached his goal of escaping captivity. Sadly he was entering into a world full deadly human made contaminants, and Pigeons with STDs.

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