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The Toxicology Reports Are In: Our Sweet Flaco Was In Fact, Murdered By The Negligence Of New York City

Postmortem testing has been completed for Flaco, the Eurasian eagle owl that was found down in the courtyard of a Manhattan building a little over a year after his enclosure at the Central Park Zoo was vandalized on February 2, 2023. Onlookers reported that Flaco had flown into a building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on February 23, 2024, and acute trauma was found at necropsy.

Bronx Zoo veterinary pathologists determined that in addition to the traumatic injuries, Flaco had two significant underlying conditions. He had a severe pigeon herpesvirus from eating feral pigeons that had become part of his diet, and exposure to four different anticoagulant rodenticides that are commonly used for rat control in New York City. These factors would have been debilitating and ultimately fatal, even without a traumatic injury, and may have predisposed him to flying into or falling from the building.

The identified herpesvirus can be carried by healthy pigeons but may cause fatal disease in birds of prey including owls infected by eating pigeons. This virus has been previously found in New York City pigeons and owls. In Flaco’s case, the viral infection caused severe tissue damage and inflammation in many organs, including the spleen, liver, gastrointestinal tract, bone marrow, and brain.  

I'm absolutely sick to my stomach over this news. I won't act like I'm surprised, as our Sweet Flaco was a beacon of hope in this dark, dark world...too pure to survive alongside the seedy underbelly of this once great city looming over him, day and night. Let's address the issues:

1. Exposure to FOUR DIFFERENT rodenticides

Everyone knows the rat problem in New York City is out of control. Normally, I'd be all in favor of flooding the streets with poison and getting rid of them all, but this? Letting Flaco fly free, knowing that one of his two sources of sustenance were undoubtedly poisoned, is just another example of the careless behavior we see day after day. The rat problem can be traced directly back to the overwhelming garbage issue we have in the city - you can't even walk on the sidewalk without passing a pile of trash, and watching the rats dive in and out like its the public pool at the YMCA. Knowing our never ending issues with these disgusting creatures, how could anyone have OKed Flaco's continued freedom? Was this an inside job? 

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2. Severe pigeon herpesvirus from feral pigeons

Ah, yes, rats with wings. Another favorite of Flaco's, a plentiful food source that may be even more readily available than the rats themselves. Before today, I had no idea these pigeons were flying around, feral and with herpes. Seemingly "not harmful" to them, but deadly to anyone who would ingest them. Where were our warnings? All we've ever been told is that "pigeons are gross." Wouldn't it have been in the best interest of the residents of New York City to know exactly how dangerous these beasts have become? 

As is the state of the world, no tragedy can be met without negativity and, dare I say, victim blaming:

All I can say is, wow. In the midst of drawing attention to the blatant disregard of New York's inhabitants, we still have those who choose to abandon all reason and decide to instead, shame an owl for being an owl. How was Flaco supposed to know these pigeons were flying around, riddled with disease, and looking like a tasty snack? Are we implying that Flaco was having INTERCOURSE with these miscreants? Wouldn't not only the pigeons themselves be at fault, but again the machine behind them that seemingly lets them invade our skies and streets, without consequence? Truly troubling behavior from this anonymous hater. 

From where I sit, Flaco was set up to fail. These problems seem to be so obvious that I have no choice to believe that Flaco was a pawn in a game, a message from the Mayor to remind us that even when we are given something pure and hopeful, we will always be crushed by this city. We aren't free, we aren't safe, and we shouldn't pretend to think otherwise. 

May Flaco continue to watch over us all, with a shred of hope for a better and brighter future.