There is an escaped Eurasian eagle-owl on the loose, either in or around the Minnesota Zoo.
The Apple Valley zoo said Tuesday the owl, an animal ambassador named Gladys, flew off to a tree and didn't come back during "a routine exercise and training session" that was being held outdoors. It happened Oct. 1, Communication and Media Relations Specialist Zach Nugent told Bring Me The News.
Zoo staff managed to keep sight of Gladys in "various trees around campus," and tried using food and fun objects to coax her back," Nugent explained. But late last week her presence has been less consistent, with sightings in recent days becoming spotty.
The zoo said she is "likely" somewhere within the 485 "heavily forested" acres the zoo owns. But it's possible she got out, and now they're asking neighbors to "be aware" and keep an eye out for Gladys.
"Gladys does not pose a threat to public safety," the zoo stressed, adding it is working with local wildlife agencies and authorities to find the loose raptor. Anyone that sees a large bird that looks like Gladys is asked to call their local police department.
One Facebook user, as a reply to the Minnesota Zoo's post, shared an image taken nearby on Oct. 8 of an owl, perched on a roof with a cat or (more likely) a rabbit in its talons.
"Our team has confirmed that the owl in this photo shares many of Gladys' traits and are responding with a search of the area," the zoo replied.
Nugent said the zoo has received many tips since sharing the alert, saying they're "looking into each one we receive."
"We are very appreciative to our community for sending in this information," he continued.
Nugent said Gladys is adapted to cold conditions, and that there isn't much concern about her safety with regard to other predators.
Somewhat complicating things, the Eurasian Eagle-owl, like most owls, is most active at night and roosts during the day — where its markings and coloring are incredibly effective camouflage in wooded areas. Meaning Gladys can be quite difficult to spot.
The species also has ear tufts similar to the native great horned owl, though has distinctive pumpkin-orange eyes (vs. yellow in the great horned owl) and less-noticeable facial markings. It's also taller (2-2.5 feet compared to just under 2 feet) with a slightly larger wingspan (5-6 feet vs. about 3.5 feet).
Eurasian eagle-owls are native to much of Europe, and parts of Asia and northern Africa. They are among the largest owl species in the world. Its population fell drastically in the first half of the 20th century, but has begun to rebound thanks to the adoption of certain protections.