It’s not even 2 days into the new year and I got another bobcat call.
I was on my way in to work when I got a call from our Gift Shop that a man had walked in and asked if we were missing a bobcat. I’m always surprised at how many Floridians don’t know that bobcats are native to our state. What had started out as a beautiful morning, quickly turned dark and dreadful.
As I approached the location it was clear, from the beautiful spotted underbelly facing the sky, that the animal who was being hit time and time again by motorists, was indeed a bobcat. I waited for a break in traffic to run out and retrieve her broken body. Usually bobcats seem to make it out of the roadway, or at least to the shoulder of the road, but she had been crushed so many times, that it felt like my heart would break into as many shards, when I felt her in my trembling hands. I thought about the male bobcat who had lost his life at this same crossing just a little over a month ago. On both sides of Sheldon Road there is massive development underway to add more stores, homes and a recent emergency clinic. Ironic…
I vowed to create a document to track all of these calls. We have done a good job of documenting the bobcats we have rescued, but what about all of the times when we didn’t get there in time? We have gotten 12 bobcat calls in the last year; four of them were dead on arrival and we never did find the fifth bobcat, although we did find blood on the pavement. Right now we have 6 bobcat kittens in rehab and hope to release all of them this year. While it brings great joy to return them to their rightful place, it is just barely enough to make up for the pain of finding the broken bodies of those we can’t help.
So many campaigns suggest that you should give wildlife a “brake” and it’s a lovely sentiment, but it you have ever seen a bobcat run, then you know there is no way a person could avoid hitting one if the cat darted out in front of them. The only real solution is to build under and over passes that connect major green ways for the animals and high fences with a cantilever at the top to keep wildlife from scaling them. The straight, 8 foot fences that are used current are totally inadequate. These are pricey projects, but without them we will lose our wildlife and all that is beautiful and pure in this world.
We are working hard to end the private possession of exotic cats and doing so would put us out of business. We really look forward to that day, but I know that won’t be an end to the long days and sleepless nights. We will always provide rehab and release for native bobcats and that need seems to be increasing. It’s hard to know if the number of bobcat calls are escalating, or if it is just that people know to call us now, because we are so well known for our premiere rehab facilities. 12 calls were an all time high in 2015 and were three times higher than any year, dating back to 1994. Even other rehabbers will often call us for the time consuming and costly process of getting a bobcat ready for release back to the wild.
We have a major project underway at the sanctuary for a Small Cat Fun area, similar to our Vacation Rotation, but as soon as it is done we need to begin fundraising for a complete overhaul of our Bobcat Rehab enclosures. We have had to temporarily outfit cages for bobcat rehab that were not designed for that purpose and while it works, and is better than any other options out there for rehab, it isn’t optimal. We want to start from scratch to build rehab enclosures that are bigger, allow for more muscle toning, and that are further away from human encroachment. With more than 30 years of bobcat rehab under out belts, we know what we need and think our donors will help us make it a reality. If saving native bobcats and returning them to nature appeals to you, then you can help out here:
DOB appx 10/1/11 – 12/13/15
On Mar 5 we got a call from the Florida Wildlife Commission asking if we could help a blind bobcat that had been reported by the Manager of the Cemex Mine. His name is Tommie and he loves the wildlife that calls his land a sanctuary. He knew there was something desperately wrong with this little kitten from the first day he saw her, which was about two weeks before.
We made arrangements to drive up to the mine on Mar 6 to set a humane trap because the kitten had not been seen since Feb 27. Jamie and I drove up with a trap, nets, carrier, and bait for four days and Tommie Deaner agreed to check and set the trap daily.
On the way to Center Hill Tommie texted that the bobcat was in sight and that he had caught some fish for her and was feeding her. Jamie texted back to stop because traffic had us running a half hour late. Since there was no way to get a fish away from a starving bobcat, Tommie improvised and got a box out of the trash to trap her in.
When Jamie and I drove up we were waved to the scene by Cemex staff. When we saw the box we were thrilled at the prospect of NOT having to chase a bobcat all over place. The problem was that the box didn’t have a bottom.
We slid a piece of plywood under the box, like you would pick up a spider with a cup and cardboard (per Jamie) and then put the whole thing in the van. The plan was to shift her from the box to the carrier inside the van, so that if the bobcat escaped, she was at least trapped in the van… with us. Well, that part wasn’t very appealing, but it was better than the risk of losing her and having her starve to death.
If you have never seen Jamie net a cat; you haven’t seen art in motion. Quicker than a blink she had her in the net and backed up to the carrier door. Since she really couldn’t see well enough to put up much of a fight, we got her in the carrier pretty neatly. She growled for a while, but the belly full of fish and the swaying motion of the van for an hour and a half put her right to sleep.
She was suffering from starvation, blindness and parasites and was so badly debilitated that she will never be a candidate for release. She has very limited, if any sight, so she will spend the rest of her life at Big Cat Rescue.
Tommie Girl watches Gale and the interns cleaning out Canyon Sandcat’s third section to prepare it for a tunnel, all of the weeds out of Nirvana Ocelot’s enclosure and many more landscaping projects.
On 12/13/15 Tommie Girl was found laying next to her water bowl, completely drenched, as if she had a seizure and had dumped the bowl on herself in the process. Keepers found her breathing shallowly and staring out into space. The vet happened to be right next door and rushed in, but she was dead within minutes. We sent her entire body out for necropsy to two facilities in Georgia, but despite one of them specializing in brain issues, neither could determine her cause of death. She was one of our youngest residents and we never expected to lose her so soon, even though she had arrived with severe neurological issues.
It is very rare that we get video of Tommie, so this was a real treat!
1999 Jacksonville, FL: A cougar bit a 19 month old child at the Catty Shack Ranch.
December 4, 1999 Williamsville, MO: A 5-year-old boy required surgery after he was mauled by a “pet” lion kept chained in a neighbor’s yard. The animal inflicted puncture wounds to the boy’s throat and head. The lion was killed.
November 18, 1999 China: Four tigers mauled to death a driver at a safari park after he exited his bus to make a repair. Previous attacks at the 4-year-old park had been reported.
October 30, 1999 Buffalo, NY: A keeper at the Buffalo Zoo was bit and clawed by a leopard.
October 25, 1999 Great Plains, SD: A 4-year-old girl was injured after she was clawed by an African lynx at the Great Plains Zoo. The girl and her parents had wandered into a staff area of the zoo.
October 21, 1999 Evansville, IN: A zookeeper at the Mesker Park Zoo was mauled by a lion who severely injured his leg and arm.
August 3, 1999 Alor Star, Malaysia: A lion with a circus slashed and deeply cut a handler’s hand as he escaped from his cage. The lion was recaptured three hours later.
June 26, 1999 Sterling, KS: A woman with a group of Boy Scouts visiting Safari Zoological Park was attacked by a caged tiger when she put her hand on the cage. She lost her arm and later died.
June 7, 1999 Yorktown, TX: A 9-year-old girl was killed when her stepfather’s “pet” tiger grabbed her by the neck and dragged her into a water trough.
May 4, 1999 Spain: Tigers mauled to death an elderly German couple visiting a game park in Spain. After getting out of their car, three tigers attacked them both, causing fatal neck wounds.
April 10, 1999 Pearland, TX: A tiger handler had to be airlifted to the hospital after being attacked by a tiger at a defunct roadside zoo. The tiger was killed.
March 31, 1999 Tyler, TX: A woman’s arm was nearly severed by a tiger at a compound. A volunteer at the facility, she reached in to pet the tiger, when he attacked. Doctors were unsure whether they would be able to save her arm.
March 16, 1999 Colorado Springs, CO: A 6-year-old boy was severely injured by a leopard at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo after he climbed over a rope to get a closer look at the animal. Three months earlier, a woman was scratched by a tiger at the zoo after sticking her hand into his cage.
February 28, 1999 Fort Wayne, IN: A tiger mauled an employee of the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo while she was cleaning the cage, causing injuries to her chest, neck and back.
January 21, 1999 Bangkok, Thailand: Four tigers attacked and killed their keeper at a private zoo. The zoo is attached to a restaurant and the animals are used to attract customers.
January 7, 1999 Wichita, KS: A 5-month-old tiger cub bit the throat of a 5-year-old child. The tiger belonged to Safari Zoological Park, a roadside zoo that hauls animals around to schools, festivals, and store promotions. The tiger was killed the next day.
January 1, 1999 Jackson Township, NJ: Police shot and killed a 431 pound tiger who escaped from the Tigers Only Preservation Society, only a few hundred yards from a subdivision.
1998 Harris County, TX: A 4-year-old girl was mauled by a Bridgeport Nature Center tiger during photo ops at a county fair. The girl required stitches and $17,000 in plastic surgery to her leg. The girl’s family filed a lawsuit against Bridgeport.
December 23, 1998 Coral Gables, FL: A five year old girl suffered a nine inch gash to her skull when a handler with the cougar at a child’s birthday party was unable to restrain the cat from attacking. The cat was killed to be tested by the Center for Disease Control.
December 9, 1998 South Africa: A 2-year-old boy was severely injured when a lion at a zoo reached under the gate of his cage and bit the boy’s hip and dragged him under the gate.
December 7, 1998 Doué-la-Fountaine, France: A 4-year-old boy was fatally mauled, and his father severely injured, by 2 jaguars who had escaped from their cage at the Doué-la-Fountaine Zoo south of Paris, France. Police killed both of the 200-pound female jaguars.
December 7, 1998 Ukraine: A lioness attacked and badly injured a worker at a Ukrainian zoo after she entered her cage thinking it was empty.
November 21, 1998 Chicago, IL: A Ringling Bros. circus employee was seriously mauled by a tiger used in the circus when three tigers escaped from their cage in a Chicago parking lot. The tiger clawed the handler on his neck and side. This was the second attack by tigers used by Ringling in one year. (see 1/7/98).
November 18, 1998 Kaufman, TX: A Texas man was attacked by his “pet” lion and suffered serious injuries. The adult female lion jumped him from behind.
November 15, 1998 Chatham County, NC: A cougar mauled a volunteer with Carnivore Preservation Trust causing numerous bites and deep scratches.
November 13, 1998 Newberry, FL: The same tiger who killed his trainer on 10/8/98 attacked and killed his owner. The tiger was shot dead. The tiger’s other owner, Ron Guay AKA Ron Holiday, now trains students in tiger handling at Amazing Exotics for Yvonne Finser in Umatilla, FL.
November 8, 1998 Cut and Shoot, TX: Two “pet” tigers escaped their backyard cage and attacked a dog and a pig before being shot dead by police after charging pursuers. In 1997, a “pet” cougar kept by the same man escaped and was never re-captured.
October 8, 1998 Newberry, FL: A tiger attacked and killed his trainer, Joy Holiday AKA Joy Guay, at the Holiday’s Cat Dancer facility. The tiger had been used in the operation’s traveling animal show and featured in Shrine circuses. The tiger grabbed the trainer by the throat. The tiger’s other owner, Ron Guay AKA Ron Holiday, now trains students in tiger handling at Amazing Exotics for Yvonne Finser in Umatilla, FL.
September 2, 1998 Citrus Park, FL: Black leopard bites volunteer attempting to pet animal through cage at Wildlife on Easy Street. Wounds to arm required 451 stitches to close. The volunteer admitted she was breaking the rules and was not allowed to return to the property.
August 29, 1998 Myakka City, FL: A tiger bit the hand of a 14-year-old volunteer with Tiger Claw Productions. The bite stripped flesh and tendons from her hand and required two surgeries to repair.
July 31, 1998 Vallejo, CA: A 300-pound Bengal tiger named Kuma turned on Jaunell Waldo when she posed for a photo op with the tiger at Marine World. “He bit through my head, damaged my vertebra and my ear canal,” recalls Waldo, “The bottom third of my face was on my chest. They had to sew all of that back.” She says trainers told her they’d done more than 100 sessions with members of the public. For $250, visitors were taken to a backstage area. “But it’s a cat, and when they play, they play to kill. I closed down my chin to protect my neck, and that’s why he got my face” said Juanell. Trainer Chad Zierenberg forced his way between Waldo and the tiger and was clawed on the back. The trainers were unable to get Kuma to respond to commands until someone rushed in and sprayed a fire extinguisher. In January 1996, Zierenberg was slightly injured when two cougars
that he and another trainer were exercising attacked. In November 1986, another Marine World tiger mauled a San Mateo High School football player during a noisy pep rally at the school. Read about the attack HERE
July 30, 1998 Minot, ND: A 5-year-old boy suffered facial cuts requiring plastic surgery after being attacked by a tiger at a photo booth run by Bridgeport Nature Park at the state fair.
July 13, 1998 Brisbane, Australia: During a show in front of 200 spectators, a tiger attacked his handler, picked him up, and carried him 15 feet.
May 2, 1998 Wylie, TX: A “pet” cougar bit a 4-year-old boy on the leg. The boy required $5,800 in medical care.
May 1, 1998 Witchita, KS: A tiger scratched or bit an adult while the animal was appearing at a store’s promotional event.
April 7, 1998 Charlotte, NC: Two lions at the Charlotte Metro Zoo attacked a keeper, one biting him on the leg while the other took the man’s head in his mouth. The keeper suffered deep puncture wounds to his head and leg. He had to be airlifted to a trauma center.
April 1, 1998 AR: A tiger attacked a worker at a breeding compound, biting him on the neck.
February 10, 1998 Lincolnton, NC: A leopard nearly killed his trainer after attacking her at a Royal Palace Circus performance in North Carolina. The trainer suffered injuries requiring reconstructive surgery and hospitalization for a week.
February 8, 1998 Belfast, Ireland: A tiger escaped from his cage at the Belfast Zoo and attacked a keeper before being shot to death by police. The keeper was treated at a hospital for injuries to both legs and a hand.
January 7, 1998 St. Petersburg, FL: A trainer with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus suffered severe head wounds after a tiger grabbed him by the head and dragged him around the ring. He was hospitalized in critical condition and required extensive surgery. The trainer’s brother shot the tiger five times after the animal had been returned to his cage, killing him.
December 25, 1997 Tampa, FL: The St. Petersburg Times reported that a man who was bitten on the arm by a cougar in 1996 was suing WildLife on Easy Street. The suit was dropped when the man’s friend, the pet owner of the cougar, was depositioned. Both were former volunteers, and were suspected in the release of the cougar from WildLife on Easy Street in August of 1996 as he was trying to make a case that the cat he was accusing of the bite was dangerous. Both volunteers were dismissed from the program and the cougar was recaptured without incident.
November 7, 1997 Shubra al-Khaima, Egypt: Three starving lions belonging to a traveling circus mauled to death a teenage boy who had been hired 10 days earlier to clean cages. The lions had been left in a cage without
food for several days near a bus station in a densely populated neighborhood outside Cairo.
October 22, 1997 Calabasas, CA: The same jaguar who attacked a trainer on 10/16/97 attacked another trainer who suffered bite wounds on his leg and a cut to his hand on a movie set.
October 16, 1997 Calabasas, CA: A trainer on a movie set in California underwent surgery to repair a broken leg after being attacked by a jaguar. She was expected to remain hospitalized in fair condition for several days.
September 1997 Port Perry, Ontario, Canada: A 6-year-old girl was attacked and left permanently scarred by a jaguar at the Northwood Buffalo and Exotic Animal Ranch. The girl put her arm through the wire mesh of
the cage, and the cat grasped her with his paws and mouth. The girl’s family was awarded more than $31,500 in a lawsuit.
August 17, 1997 Marshfield, MA: A 13-year-old girl was rushed to the emergency room after being bitten by a tiger during a photo session in Massachusetts. The girl had to undergo painful rabies treatment. The Marshfield Mass. Animal Control Department reported “several” other bites associated with this photo booth.
August 3, 1997 Tokyo, Japan: A Japanese couple was mauled to death by a tiger at a safari park near Tokyo.
June 7, 1997 Scappoose, OR: A woman suffered deep puncture wounds to the neck and post-traumatic stress disorder when she was attacked by a neighbor’s “pet” leopard.
May 19, 1997 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: A 4-year-old boy was killed after a lion who was being taken for a stroll broke loose and mauled him.
May 13, 1997 Strassburg, Germany: During a circus performance a tiger attacked a circus worker and seriously hurt him while he was setting up cages.
May 8, 1997 Lubbock, TX: One of five “pet” tigers mauled his owner. The man was admitted to the hospital in critical condition. The owner’s son killed the tiger.
May 7, 1997 Carrollton, PA: A tiger used in the Franzen Bros. Circus killed a trainer in front of 200 horrified schoolchildren.
May 4, 1997 Knox County, TN: A tiger mauled a student at Joe Robinson’s roadside menagerie.
April 29, 1997 Oklahoma City, OK: A leopard escaped from his cage killed a woman at an exotic animal “sanctuary.” Sheriff’s deputies shot and killed the leopard seven hours later when he was found along a road nearly a half-mile from Oak Hill Center for Rare and Endangered Species.
April 27, 1997 San Antonio, TX: A man lost his finger and his friend was injured when they broke into an exotic animal orphanage and tried to pet a tiger.
April 4, 1997 Dallas, TX: A “pet” bobcat mauled a toddler. The 2-year-old boy lost his right index finger, had his heel chewed off, and suffered a severe bite wound to his right cheek.
March 19, 1997 Orlando, FL: A tiger escaped from a cage and mauled a keeper at exotic cat breeding compound. The keeper suffered a broken thigh, crushed knee and severed arteries and veins in his leg. Authorities later shot and killed the tiger because they feared the animal would jump a perimeter fence and flee the compound. (This was probably Dave McMillan’s Tiger’s Eye Productions or Robert Baudy’s Savage Kingdom)
March 18, 1997 San Antonio, TX: A tiger escaped from a wildlife animal refuge, killing an ostrich and pawing a sheriff’s deputy before being tranquilized and recaptured. A 300-pound tiger named Sheryl took a leisurely morning stroll after escaping from the Wild Animal Orphanage, authorities say. The tiger jumped a 10-foot fence to get away. She attacked and killed a duck and an ostrich before wounding a llama. Carol Asvestas said she believes the tiger got out after being provoked by an intruder who broke into the property by scaling a perimeter fence.
March 12, 1997 Caudwell, TX: A 13-year-old boy was attacked by a “pet” tiger and a lion kept in a cage built into the side of his grandfather’s house. The boy’s father said, “My boy was not mauled, he was being eaten alive.”
1997 TX: A lion kept in a cage as a backyard “pet” bit a visitor’s hand and tried to pull her into the cage. She had four deeply grooved cuts requiring 21 stitches. The owner claimed that in the past, when the lion “got out of control,” squirting him in the eyes with a spray bottle full of vinegar usually “calmed him down.”
1997 Kirbyville, TX: A tiger bit two fingers off the left hand of Monique Woodard, owner of the Exotic Cat Refuge and Wildlife Orphanage. Doctors were able to reattach one of the fingers.
December 21, 1996 Brooklyn Park, MN: Three pet-supply store workers were bitten or scratched by a 7-month-old tiger who had been brought to the store to have his picture taken. The three workers agreed to receive rabies shots.
December 15, 1996 Indonesia: A tourist was mauled to death by a chained tiger at a safari park while posing with the animal for a photograph.
December 6, 1996 Ababa, Ethiopia: A lion pushed open his cage door and killed his keeper at a roadside zoo.
October 9, 1996 Las Vegas, NV: A Las Vegas animal trainer had to undergo surgery on his feet and legs after being mauled by a tiger.
September 16, 1996 Crystal Beach, TX: A declawed “pet” lioness died after she was shot and tranquilized by a deputy. The lioness attacked a man after a burglarhad apparently set her free.
August 28, 1996 London, Ontario: A “pet” cougar mauled 2-year-old outside of London, Ontario.
July 18, 1996 Middletown, NY: A white tiger from Hawthorn Corporation bit the hand of a carnival worker while performing at the Orange County Fair.
May 6, 1996 Midlothian, TX: A 6-year-old girl suffered severe injuries to her head, neck, arms, back, and legs in an attack by a tiger, one of seven big cats on a breeding farm. During the investigation it was found that these same cats had been involved in three previous documented attacks. On this day, Katie Baxter’s mother, Tammi Baxter, decided to visit the tigers owned by a cousin’s friend. “Everybody knew about this place; everybody went out there all the time. ” she says. A ball was in the tigers’ water bowl, and as Baxter and her children watched, one of the animal handlers went into the pen to retrieve it. “He closed all the gates behind him, but somehow when he got to the last one to get the ball out of the water thing, this one tiger went nuts. [The tiger] hit one of the gates, kind of like stood up and hit the door,” Baxter says. “He went through two other gates the same way and was out in the viewing area before we even knew what happened. “I got to Katie, but by the time I got to her, he was already attacking her. It was horrible.” The tiger knocked Baxter and Katie down but “went for Katie,” grabbing her by the neck. Then it started dragging her. “We were trying to beat the tiger, beat it with our hands, but that wasn’t stopping it. So my cousin, he got a metal pipe and knocked it in the head so we could get her away from the tiger,” Baxter says. There were no telephones, so Baxter put Katie and her son into their car and raced toward a nearby hospital. Baxter missed a turn and crashed into a ditch. Katie, who was bleeding from the neck, was taken to one hospital by helicopter ambulance. Baxter and her son were taken to another with injuries from the car wreck. Katie spent more than a month in the hospital and underwent cosmetic surgery.
February 10, 1996 Pahang, Malaysia: An employee of the London Royal Circus suffered serious injuries to her thigh and calf after a lioness attacked her while she was cleaning her cage.
January 5, 1996 Vallejo, CA: One trainer, Chad Zierenberg, at Marine World Africa was seriously hurt and another received minor injuries when they were attacked by two cougars as they prepared to take the cougars for a
January 3, 1996 Calcutta, India: A tiger killed one man and mauled another at the Calcutta Zoo when they attempted to put a garland around his neck.
December 27, 1995 Quinlan, TX: A 3-year-old toddler was mauled by his family’s “pet” cougar. He had numerous head wounds sutured, reconstructive surgery to reattach one ear and neurosurgery to remove bone fragments from his brain. His 6-year-old sister was also attacked and received over thirty staples to head wounds, in the emergency room. The declawed cougar, whose teeth had been filed down as a preventative, was shot and killed. According to the children’s relative the cat was kept in a cage (without the added protection of a second secure cage around it) in front of their house. He had watched these children play, and get the attention he had once received, for several years. The relative asserts that the father believed he had complete control of this cat.
December 13, 1995 Beijing, China: A Chinese circus hand was killed by a tiger with whom he was “quite familiar.” The chained animal sprang at the man and sank his teeth into the man’s throat, causing fatal injuries.
December 1, 1995 Fort Worth, TX: A tiger at the Fort Worth Zoo leaped an 11-foot-wide moat and attacked a zookeeper. The keeper was bitten on the shoulder, arm, and hand and was off work for several weeks.
November 24, 1995 Raleigh, NC: A “pet” Bengal tiger mauled and critically injured a 3-year-old boy while his father was walking the animal on a leash. The tiger was shot and killed.
November 13, 1995 Memphis, TN: Two Sumatran tigers mauled a man who entered their enclosure at the Memphis Zoo.
November 2, 1995 Washington, DC: House Speaker Newt Gingrich was bitten on the chin by a baby cougar he was holding. The bite drew blood, but was not considered a serious injury.
October 29, 1995 Allegan, MI: While her 9-year-old daughter watched in horror, a woman was attacked and killed by a “pet” lion after she entered his cage at the home of a friend who collected exotic animals. The friend was severely injured when he tried to stop the attack.
September 30, 1995 Indianapolis, IN: A lion being used by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus bit off the index finger of a woman who put her hand in his cage kept in a staging area.
September 29, 1995 Piraeus, Greece: An American tourist was bitten and nearly lost her hand when she attempted to pet a tiger with an Italian circus.
September 27, 1995 Lava Hot Springs, ID: Nineteen lions at Ligertown Game Farm were shot and killed after escaping the complex.
September 19, 1995 Haysville, KS: A man shot and killed an African lion he found pacing on his driveway after the lion had escaped from a neighbor’s pen.
September 18, 1995 Wesley, KS: A 2-year-old boy required hospital treatment for a severe bite on his ear from the family’s 4-month-old cougar.
September 1995 Bloomington, IL: A man suffered a 3 inch gash to his hand when he attempted to pet a leopard at the Miller Park Zoo.
August 6, 1995 Phoenix, AZ: A mountain lion at the Phoenix Zoo gashed a 5-year old boy’s arm after he wandered too close to the cage. He required stitches to close the wound and received scratches on the side of his chest.
June 27, 1995 Downers Grove, IL: A 2-year old Chicago girl was mauled by her aunt’s “pet” Asian jungle cat.
June 2, 1995 Queens, NY: A 2-year-old boy was bitten by his neighbor’s pet cougar when he reached through a barred window to pet the animal. The 9-month-old cougar nearly severed one of the boy’s fingers, which was reattached at the hospital.
May 28, 1995 Novi, MI: Seven lions and tigers toppled onto a freeway when the trailer they were in came unhitched. One lion suffered a fractured skull and a tiger bolted across traffic, leading police on a four-hour chase.
March 5, 1995 Washington, DC: A woman was fatally mauled by lions after climbing into their enclosure at the National Zoo. The body was so battered and shredded so violently that her fingerprints were gone and her face unrecognizable.
January 2, 1995 Scottsbluff, NE: A zookeeper at the Riverside Zoo required surgery to repair her windpipe and injuries to her face and chest after she was attacked by a leopard.
December 20, 1994 East London, South Africa: Two tigers at the East London Zoo mauled a man who jumped into their enclosure. A tiger from this same group was the one killed after attacking a cameraman in
Angola (see 3/16/94).
November 13, 1994 London, England: A zookeeper was killed at a private zoo by a tiger while cleaning the cage. The private facility in London had a slew of deaths and maulings of both visitors and keepers.
October 11, 1994 San Diego, CA: San Diego Zoo animal trainer Joan Embery suffered two deep gashes on her face by a cheetah she was exhibiting on a television talk show.
September 5, 1994 Jasper, AL: A tiger escaped from the private menagerie of Earl and Debra Dobbins and was shot and killed by a neighbor. Another tiger on the Dobbins’ property was taken to the Birmingham Zoo.
September 3, 1994 New Delhi, India: A tiger jumped out of the ring during a circus performance and killed a 6 year-old boy in the audience. The boy’s father was also seriously injured.
August 8, 1994 Hyde Park, OH: A 180-pound pet African lion escaped from a home and ran loose in Hyde Park before being recaptured. The animal was later confiscated by authorities, and the owner was cited for possession of a dangerous animal and inducing panic.
July 24, 1994 Hanover, Canada: A 16-year-old boy was bitten on the neck and killed when he entered a cage with two declawed tigers at a roadside zoo.
July 15, 1994 Kuwait, Iraq: A lion killed his circus trainer by locking his jaws around the woman’s neck during a performance.
June 23, 1994 Brisbane, Australia: A 20 month-old boy had one arm bitten off, and the other badly mauled by a tiglon (a lion/tiger cross) at a circus. The boy’s father was an employee of the circus.
June 18, 1994 Columbia, SC: A tiger at an exotic animal farm mauled a 17-year-old worker.
June 7, 1994 Miami, FL: A senior zookeeper with 20 years’ experience was mauled and killed by a tiger at Miami Metrozoo.
April 5, 1994 Jackson, MS: An 80-pound cheetah scaled an 8-foot fence and pounced on an 8-year-old boy at the Jackson Zoo. The boy was scratched and nipped before the cheetah was recaptured.
March 22, 1994 Beech Grove, AR: A 150-pound declawed pet cougar escaped and attacked a 71-year-old year neighbor, inflicting deep bite wounds to the man’s shoulder and arm.
March 16, 1994 Angola: A tiger killed a South African news cameraperson while he was filming the evacuation of starving animals from a zoo in Angola. A witness reported that he “never stood a chance.” The tiger was killed.
January 25, 1994 Moscow, Russia: A lion with Bingo-Bongo Circus escaped from his cage. A policeman shot and killed the animal with a submachine gun.
January 3, 1994 Shanghai, China: After being forced to climb a ladder and jump through a hoop, a tiger in the Chinese circus grabbed his trainer puncturing two big holes in her neck.
January 3, 1994 Namibia, Africa: Lions at the Ekongoro zoo mauled to death a man who broke into the zoo at night.
December 12, 1993 Palm Beach, FL: A worker at the Lion Country Safari was attacked by a lion, causing severe puncture wounds to her head and chest, as well as collapsed lungs.
September 14, 1993 Joplin, MO: A circus employee lost part of her arm after an attack by a tiger on the circus’ animal farm. Doctors had to amputate her arm below the elbow.
August 11, 1993 Georgetown, OH: Two teenage boys suffered facial cuts when a lion attacked one, and the other attempted to intercede. The boys were walking when a “pet” lion escaped from his cage and attacked them unprovoked.
May 6, 1993 Las Vegas, NV: A keeper feeding a trio of lions in the backyard of a Las Vegas residence was hospitalized after one of the cats attacked her. The Circus Vargas employee suffered five gouges to her leg. During an April performance, another employee was bitten by a lion.
May 6, 1993 Bronx, NY: A man with a history of mental instability was mauled by two lions at the Bronx Zoo after he climbed into their cage.
April 17, 1993 Little Rock, AR: A tiger performing with the Shrine Circus at the Barton Coliseum escaped, ran into the audience, and bit a 13-year-old girl. The tiger was owned and trained by Jordan Circus.
February 21, 1993 Norfolk, VA: Graham Chipperfield, a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus big cat trainer, was mauled by a lion while breaking up a fight between two other lions.
February 3, 1993 Wichita, KS: A keeper was hospitalized in serious condition with wounds to his face and neck after being mauled by a Bengal tiger at Tanganyika Wildlife Company. The tiger lunged through the open door of a cage and attacked when the keeper bent down to pick up something. A second keeper attempted to beat the tiger away with a shovel and then shot and killed the tiger.
November 30, 1992 Pahrump, NV: A man was severely bitten by a tiger owned by animal trainer Alex Pasternak. The tiger had to be shot before he would release his grip.
September 27, 1992 Reno, NV: A Reno illusionist suffered “bone-deep” puncture wounds to his leg and arm by a tiger being used in a performance.
September 19, 1992 Tokyo, Japan: A lion escaped from a Bolshoi Circus cage in Tokyo and roamed loose for five hours before being gunned down with high-powered rifles.
July 26, 1992 Curitiba, Brazil: A tiger who escaped from a and terrorized residents was shot 20 times and killed by police.
June 10, 1992 St. Mary, Australia: A tiger bit a Robinson Circus worker after escaping from his cage and was shot and killed as he approached a busy shopping center.
May 21, 1992 Muhlenberg Township, PA: Two tigers with Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus escaped from an unlocked cage during a performance. One tiger roamed around the center ring, frightening 2,000 spectators before he was recaptured.
April 7, 1992 Iron Hill, DE: One of two cougars used by a private breeder jumped 12 feet and attacked a visitor, biting her on the head, neck, and upper back. The breeder said he would sell the two animals and replace them with cubs in order to continue his breeding and dealing operation.
April 5, 1992 Portland, OR: A “pet” lion/tiger hybrid attacked an 11-year-old girl who had to undergo surgery to repair extensive muscle damage in her arm. The animal would not let go and had to be shot and killed.
December 1, 1991 France: A tiger attacked a trainer during a performance of the Parade Circus. The trainer was treated for lacerations to his legs that required a one-month hospitalization. The same trainer’s father was similarly attacked by a cougar during a “wild animal” show twelve years previous to his son’s attack.
May 31, 1991 Mexico City, Mexico: A lion performing with Sur Americano circus leaped into the bleachers and pounced on a 7-year-old boy, biting his head and killing him. The lion was shot in the head and killed during the attack.
September 29, 1991 Jackson County, KS: A caged lion bit a man on the hand causing puncture wounds that required stitches after the man attempted to pet the lion at a Christmas tree farm.
September 17, 1991 Tucson, AZ: A lion cub bit the arm of a 3-year-old girl at the Reid Park Zoo.
August 17, 1991 Fresno, CA: A lion with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus bit a man who tried to pet the caged lion.
June 1, 1991 Anderson County, SC: A pet lion escaped from a backyard chain-link fenced enclosure and attacked a 5-year-old girl and her grandmother. The girl required stitches. The lion’s owner later shot and killed the lion.
May 13, 1991 Belgium: In front of horrified onlookers, an animal trainer for the Kessler Bros. Circus was slowly suffocated to death by a lion who put the trainer’s entire head in her mouth. The lion was shot and killed, but the trainer had already perished.
April 18, 1991 Wilkesboro, NC: A 3-year-old girl was attacked by a leopard traveling with the Great American Circus.
March 8, 1991 Grimsby, Britain: Four lions escaped during a Chipperfield circus performance and ran into a crowd of 100 parents with their children in Grimsby. One man was attacked and treated at a hospital.
February 23, 1991 Melbourne, Australia: A drunken man was severely mauled after freeing four lions from their circus cage.
January 18, 1991 Toulouse, France: A tiger attacked and seriously injured a 3-year-old girl at a circus performance. The 400-lb. tiger leaped into the audience, slashed the child across her face and managed to get her head in his jaws before being dragged off.
December 19, 1990 Italy: A 65-year-old woman was mauled to death at an amusement park when a leopard she was feeding seized her by the neck and dragged her into the cage. The animal, part of an exhibit in a small town in Italy, was tear-gassed, shot, and killed.
November 5, 1990 Phoenix, AZ: A woman visiting a Phoenix resort was attacked by a tiger while his trainer was walking him on a leash. Witnesses reported that the tiger acted like a “pussycat” only moments before the attack. The woman was hospitalized with severe puncture wounds.
October 27, 1990 Candelaria, Colombia: A tiger escaped from his circus handler during a parade and killed a 1-year-old child.
August 9, 1990 Sturgis, SD: A 5-year-old girl was mauled by a leopard who was restrained by a small chain on a box in Engessor’s Endangered Species traveling act. The girl’s mother sued for $100,000 in damages.
June 23, 1990 San Pedro, Argentina: One man was killed and three people were seriously injured when they were mauled by two lions who escaped from a traveling circus. The lions were shot and killed by police.
June 18, 1990 Sidney, MT: A leopard in a petting zoo bit a 7-year-old boy. The owner of the leopard said he had no intention of stopping his shows.
May 1, 1990 San Francisco, CA: A zoo keeper was mauled by a leopard in front of school children at a San Francisco zoo. The keeper underwent surgery for deep wounds to his head, shoulders, and arm.
The following are not included in the summary at the top of the page, but illustrate how far back human ignorance of the wild nature of big cats has gone. For more than a century no one tracked the number of people mauled or exotic cats killed, until 1990. In 1965 the craze to emulate the ocelot owning, Anne Fracis in the detective show Honey West, resulted in a pet trade where ocelots were so common that anyone could find one at a local pet store, but these cats were killed and turned loose when they matured for their propensity for biting their owners and devouring the family pets.
Year Unknown and not included in totals at top of page: Del Donahoo “…was bit by a 270-pound neutered male lion, Fester, who was taken around the country by his trainer to demonstrate how to become a trainer. Fester came to Midway Mall and Donahoo was picked to meet with him. The lion bit Donahoo in his back and then had Donahoo’s head in his mouth. ‘I went to the hospital and Fester went to Florida to retire,’ Donahoo said. A photographer got a picture of the incident and sold it internationally.”
1986 Jan 31 New Zealand: A lioness on the loose in the Village Green at the Lakefront and armed police on top of buildings. Four lions escaped from their cage just after a performance of the Whirling Brothers Circus on January 31. One was quickly recaptured, but three others kept police and circus staff on their toes for at least two hours. The circus owner said the lions had escaped after “street kids” had thrown a poodle into the lion cage which caused them to fight among themselves.The poodle was stolen from a Rotorua property and was killed by the lions. Roads leading to the Lakefront reserve were closed for two hours, staff at Queen Elizabeth Hospital were told to stay inside and bowlers in the Government Gardens were cleared from greens. Police at the time were highly critical of a large number of onlookers, including parents with children, who hampered efforts to recapture them.
1982 Bridgeport, CT: Dwight Bernheimer bought a cougar named Dash (aka Tina) from a dealer in Florida and took her to his home near Beardsley Park where he would walk her around town on a leash to show off his prize. Big cats had been banned as pets since 1967 but Bernheimer claimed to have had her prior to the ban and was allowed to keep her. That would have made her 15 at the time of the mauling that sent a young man to the Bridgeport Hospital.
1976 Zanesville, OH: Monado, a Bengal tiger, served as the on-site mascot for the Muskingum Area Technical College for five years. He made his debut in 1971, and he died in June 1976 after he escaped from his pen and was killed by an overdose of tranquilizer. “We felt bad when the tranquilizer killed him,” said then-president Walker Huffman. “He was so beautiful and playful. We basically brought him up, fed him with a bottle — he was like a baby. In 2011 Zanesville became known to animal lovers as the Zanesville Massacre when 56 wild animals were released by their owner and all but 6 were shot to death by authorities.
1972 Hollywood, CA: JODIE FOSTER has had a life-long fear of cats since she was almost mauled to death by a lion when she was eight years old. The actress was a child star on the set of 1972 movie Napoleon And Samantha, when a big cat co-star lashed out at her. Foster remembers, “I was walking ahead of him. He was on an invisible leash, some piano wire. He got sick of me being slow, picked my up and held me sideways and shook me like a doll. “I was in shock and thought it was an earthquake. I turned around and saw the entire crew running off in the other direction. Foster firmly believes the animal spared her life – but she admits the incident in 1972 has left her wary of all kinds of felines.
1966 New York, NY: Model Nell Theobald poses with a lion in the New York Coliseum while promoting the 1966 International Automobile Show. Moments after this photo was made, the lion bit into her leg, refusing to release her until the handlers beat the animal and forced him to let go.
1959 California: A circus wagon overturns freeing two lions. One is killed and the other is never found.
1937 London, England: The Rev Harold Davidson, Rector of Stiffkey, had a self-proclaimed mission among London’s prettier prostitutes which got him unfrocked eventually. After which he began exhibiting himself in a barrel, and later in Skegness in a (14ft x 8ft) cage with a lion called Freddy while denouncing the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Norwich and the hierarchy of the Church of England. One day in 1937 the normally docile
Freddy had enough and mauled Davidson to death.
1928 September, El Monte, CA: In September 1928, while the Charles and Muriel Gay were traveling in Europe with the circus, a trainer failed to close a runway while lions Nigger, Ike and Short-Tail were being moved between cages. Nigger made a dash for freedom, and slashed the arm of farm manager John Rounan at the moment Rounan fired a shot at the animal; the wound required 100 stitches, and Rounan later died. Trainer Joe Hoffman took off after Nigger and killed him with a bullet in the brain. Short-Tail walked into an open cage, and Hoffman was able to lock him in. But Ike got shot in the leg and ran around the farm in a rage, menacing a cow, a cage full of baby lions and arriving police officers. Ike finally died in a hail of bullets from many guns. Gay’s Lion Farm was home to all three of the famous MGM lions and began an era of terror and misery for lions in America. When the farm collapsed in 1942 the 200 lions were dispersed to zoos. (It is apparent from the name of one lion above that these people disrespected people as much as the cats)
1927 Sept. 16, San Diego, CA: Aviation was in its infancy and all eyes were agog over Charles Lindbergh’s trans-Atlantic flight just a few months earlier. MGM studio execs decided to cash in on the craze and cooked up a publicity stunt to fly their storied mascot, Leo, non-stop from California to New York. Martin Jensen, and Leo made a forced crash landing in Arizona. “I crawled out and looked to see what had happened to Leo,” Jensen said in a 1927 newspaper article. “The cage had held tight, and he wasn’t scratched, although he did look disgusted, and I figured his opinion of me as a flier is pretty low.” Six days after the crash, Jensen led the search party on horseback starting from a ranch near the Mogollon Rim back to find Leo, still caged and still alive. Read about Leo the MGM mascot lion.
1919 Sept. 21, Los Angeles, CA: Lillian Harmon, 17, wanted to pose for a picture with Leo, a usually tame African lion who had appeared in many films. But when she stepped into his enclosure at E&R Jungles near Eastlake Park, Leo attacked. “Miss Harmon had her hand on the animal’s head. It is one of the performances for which Leo was trained,” The Times reported, citing H.J. Harmon, Lillian’s brother. “For just one second, the lion stood motionless and then without the least warning struck the girl with his paw, knocking her to the ground,” the newspaper said. “In the next instant he was clawing her.”
Several men rushed to her aid and hit the lion with an iron bar. But “before a bar could be found, Leo had the girl in his jaw,” The Times said. “At the Receiving Hospital, it was found that the girl was badly torn on the back, arms and thighs where the claws and the teeth of the animal found their marks.” This was the beginning of a 100 year history of captive exotic cats being misunderstood, abused and killed for man’s entertainment in the U.S.
1899 Aston: In 1899 a young black maned Nubian lion escaped from Bostock and Wombwell’s Menagerie which was in Aston. A report which has just been unearthed in the Pall Mall Gazette on September 28, described the amazing scenes which ensured. It began: “The eastern suburb of Birmingham was yesterday the scene of a protracted and exciting animal hunt.” It all began when the lion’s keeper was distracted by a fight between an ostrich and a deer – and, the Pall Mall Gazette claimed – an elephant had removed the fastening to its cage.
Bostock and Wombwell’s was one of the most famous travelling menageries of the 19th century. It started in the 1830s and continued until 1932 when it was finally forced to sell its collection to London Zoo. The report said: “Men, women and children scampered off in all directions as the lion dashed across the ground, hotly pursued by the men from Wombwell’s. “A group of children were in its path, but it cleared them at a bound.” The lion made for a stream, before taking refuge in a sewer. Chief lion tamer Marcus Orenzo heard the lion’s roar, crawled through a manhole and began to pursue the animal. A trap was set with a cage over the drain opening and Orenzo, ‘armed with a heavy revolved and accompanied by a boarhound’ approached the lion, firing two shots. The report said: “The lion tamer crawled after it with all haste, and the faithful boarhound was kept close at hand.” The dog began to bark the lion retreated, being captured in the waiting cage.
A woman in NY was battling cancer, her sister had run off leaving her with her three children ages 6-17 and her home was in foreclosure…. She also had five servals living in her basement!
She would never be able to rent an apartment to keep her five servals and was left no choice but to try and find them a new home. After careful consideration we decided that we were able to rescue the 5 servals and immediately went into action. All the servals currently at the sanctuary live alone which they prefer as they’re solitary by nature, so in order to house 5 servals in one enclosure we had to get creative. We joined two existing enclosures together which made one huge 3000 sq ft space that the servals could roam around in and enjoy.
On top of joining the enclosures together, we added platforms, den boxes, hideaway areas and we were told they had a waterfall as kittens and loved it, so we also added a pool! We received the import permits, loaded the van with carriers and equipment then started on the long drive to New York while others finished preparing the enclosure.
We arrived in Cohoes New York, just north of Albany to a typical residential neighborhood, the 5 servals had been kept in the basement of the house which had been converted into a living room and except for a few escapes over the years including an incident where one of the owners was bit and in hospital for a week, they’d never spent any time outside. There were 4 males, Santino, Doodles, Zoul and Zimba and 1 female Zouletta, all 5 had been declawed and were between the ages of 12 and 14 years.
All the servals except for Doodles are related and had been purchased from a pet store in Latham NY, Doodles was added to the serval pack at a later date and ironically belonged to a man in Florida who’s wife told him to choose between her and the cat!
It was a kind of a bizarre and an uneasy experience to walk into the basement area and see the 5 servals hanging out in front of the fire, by the TV and on top of the hot tub! It is hard to imagine that these cats spent much time out of their concrete floored cell because the furniture and hot tub cover were not chewed and these five love to chew! But most of all it was just sad to see these 5 wild cats in such cramped unnatural conditions. The owners obviously loved the cats and had planned on them being a part of their life, they’d constructed a caged area with a drain in the floor so they could clean more easily and shut them off into the area when they had company or weren’t in the house. The cats weren’t living in filthy conditions, it was obvious they’d been fed as they all looked overweight, the owners recounted stories of them playing on pool tables and with their air hockey game, but it didn’t change the fact that their ignorance had led to the cats living on concrete in these dungeon like settings for over a decade….
Of course life has lots of surprises and circumstances change and the owners are now unable to afford or house the servals any longer…
So the rescue began…
With the help of the owners we managed to get four of the five servals into the carriers quite easily, but Doodles wasn’t impressed with these strangers invading his territory and wouldn’t go into the carrier even after we tried using food to lure him in, so he had to be netted.
Sedating cats is always the last resort, certain cats can react badly to the drugs, so we never do this unless it’s absolutely necessary…
With all 5 servals safely loaded into the BCR van and the last tearful goodbyes said, we began our long drive back to Tampa, we drove straight through the night and over 20 hours later arrived back at the sanctuary!
More staff members were waiting to help unload the cats, we weighed all the servals on the way to their new enclosure, they weighed between 31 and 42lbs, ideally they should have weighed between 20 and 30lbs.
We lined the carriers up and prepared them so we could simply unlatch the doors when we were out of the enclosure. Santino, easily recognizable with his old injury of a broken ear was the first to emerge from the carriers and explore. One by one the other servals finally began to follow his lead and introduced themselves to the outside world and their new home.
The only way we can continue to rescue cats in need like Santino, Doodles, Zimba, Zoul and Zouletta is through your support. Stay tuned for future updates on all 6 servals and how they’re adapting to life at Big Cat Rescue. You can help us change the way people treat big cats by donating at the top right of the page.
These are a few of the photos from the rescue of five servals who had been kept in a NY basement for more than 12 years.
Banshee was a pet, but when his owner had business out of the country she asked if she could board him here at Big Cat Rescue. She came and stayed two days with him to make sure that he was comfortable and left him with all his favorite toys. She cried and cried at the thought of leaving him and assured us she would be back in a couple months.
In September of 1999 she wrote and said that a Bobcat was no longer a feasible pet for her at this time and that she would be leaving Banshee with us until her situation changed. We went ahead and built him his own 900 square foot Cat-A-Tat and for the first time in his life he was able to climb trees, hide in the bushes and stalk bugs and prey.