Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009
Thurmont zookeeper, mauled by big cat, is ‘serious but stable’
by Jeremy Hauck – Staff Writer
A Frederick County animal control officer on Feb. 17 will evaluate a pair of jaguars involved in an attack on a Thurmont zookeeper this month.
If the jaguars’ temperament and health appear to be steady, they will return to their normal enclosure at Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo.
“Unless there is a health issue or a drastic change in their behavior or temperament … the quarantine would end,” said Harold Domer, director of Frederick County Animal Control, on Tuesday.
A change in health or temperament would lead to a discussion on further measures for the animals. “We would discuss that with the public health officer,” Domer said.
Diego, a 10-year-old male jaguar weighing between 180 and 200 pounds, attacked a female zookeeper on Jan. 18. Diego has been quarantined since, along with Evita, a 12-year-old female jaguar in the same enclosure at the zoo.
Deborah Gregory, 32, of Severn did not completely secure the jaguar area she was working in at about 11 a.m. on Jan. 18. Diego attacked and bit her. Other employees heard her cries and came to her aid, fending off the jaguar with a fire extinguisher.
Gregory, who had worked at the zoo for about one month, was responsive after the attack, but her injuries were serious enough to require hospitalization.
Gregory’s condition has been improved from critical to serious but stable, according to Deena Holler, trauma coordinator at R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.
Holler could not discuss Gregory’s injuries, but said, “I think she should do well.”
Michael Douglas, a Frederick County Animal Control officer, is handling the investigation. Douglas responded to the zoo on Jan. 18 and accompanied Domer there on Jan. 19.
“We do have plans to interview the victim,” Domer said.
The 30-day quarantine is standard procedure.
“This quarantine period is a consistent procedure for incidents involving well-vaccinated exotic species,” according to Deborah Roubian, spokeswoman for the Frederick County Health Department, an agency involved in the case.
Diego and Evita are both longtime residents at the zoo, and were born in captivity.
“He’s been there since he was about a year old,” said Whitney Hahn, media liaison for the zoo and daughter of owner/director Richard Hahn. “He was born at another zoo in the U.S. Same with Evita.”
The zoo, owned and operated by the Hahn family since Richard Hahn bought the Jungleland Snake Farm in 1965, has about 450 animals on its 35 acres south of Thurmont.
The zoo is in the middle of its three-month off-season.
E-mail Jeremy Hauck at email@example.com.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://bigcatrescue.org