Minnesota Zoo's missing Eurasian eagle owl dies

The Eurasian eagle owl that escaped from the Minnesota Zoo during a training exercise earlier this month was found injured and has died, the zoo announced Thursday.

A concerned neighbor found the owl named Gladys, who was brown with glowing orange eyes, by the side of the road and took her to the zoo. She died by the time the medical team got to her, said Zach Nugent, the zoo's communications specialist.

The owl's official cause of death hasn't yet been determined. She was found near the zoo but not on its grounds, he said.

It's been a difficult day for Gladys' caregivers, Nugent said.

"For the last five years, Gladys has been a beloved ambassador of her species in the bird show. The animal care team hand-raised her from a chick and worked with her daily," the Minnesota Zoo said in a tweet.

The zoo thanked the community for its support and the information provided in the search for Gladys. Zoo officials stressed the emotional impact the death of an animal has on staff, Nugent said.

The bird of prey had remained elusive since Oct. 1, when she went missing during a flying exercise — a "typical training session" — at the amphitheater, the usual location of the zoo's bird show, Nugent said.

"It was a situation where she flew to a tree and chose not to return to the care staff she was working with," Nugent said.

She was thought to be hiding out somewhere on the zoo's 485-acre Apple Valley campus.

She was seen around the zoo but wasn't lured back by food or other objects. Zoo officials weren't concerned that cold weather or predators would hurt her, they said earlier this week.

Native to areas as snowy as Siberia, Eurasian eagle owls are naturally well equipped for cold winters and feed on small rodents like mice and squirrels, Nugent said.

The Eurasian eagle owl looks similar to horned owls. They weigh between 3 ½ and 9 ¼ pounds, with a wingspan of about 5 to 6 ½ feet, according to the Denver Zoo.

Gladys was "a star" at the zoo because of the strong relationships she formed with staff and visitors, Nugent said.

"People got to know her over the years," Nugent said. "It really elicited a unique bond that isn't always there with other animals that visitors see at the zoo."

Erin Adler • 612-673-1781

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