Tiger spotted in Berlin Alabama
Published: March 25, 2006 12:03 am
Authorities get reports of possible Bengal tiger in county
By Gail Crutchfield
Residents of the Berlin community were surprised Thursday night when they spotted a tiger roaming the neighborhood.
Sgt. Rick Blackwood of the Cullman County Sheriff's Office said a resident on County Road 1641 called in the alarm at 8:33 p.m. after spotting a tiger in her backyard. The witness' name was not released by the Sheriff's Office.
Blackwood said Lt. Phillip Patterson and Cpl. Keith Marbut responded to the scene.
"They talked to several neighbors who also saw the tiger," Blackwood said.
They searched the area, he said, but never came in contact with the tiger that Blackwood said was described as a full-grown animal coming to about waist-high on an adult male.
Cullman County Animal Control Officer Tim McKoy said he spent the better part of Friday at the scene, looking for signs of the animal and talking to witnesses.
He said the woman who called in initially described the animal as a Bengal tiger, with reddish-orange coloring and black stripes.
If it is a fully adult male, it could weigh anywhere from 300 to 600 pounds, McKoy said.
He said that he could not find any concrete evidence of the tiger at the scene — no tracks, hair or markings on trees. One reason he might not have found markings, he said, is because many domesticated exotic animals like tigers are usually declawed and have their canine teeth removed. That could affect how the animal would search for food, possibly even causing it to starve, McKoy said.
McKoy added that the Bengal tiger is a nocturnal animal, meaning it moves mostly at night.
He said there should be no reason for panic, but people should be aware and keep an eye out for unusual activity with livestock and pets.
He stressed that if anyone should see the animal again, they should not approach it. Nor should they run from it. Slowly back away, he said, and call the Sheriff's Office or Animal Control.
When it is tracked down, McKoy said officials would first try to either trap the animal or "dart it" with a tranquilizer, which can take one to two minutes to work. More drastic measures could be taken if public safety is at risk.
"Whatever we have to do to catch it, we will," he said.
As to whom the tiger might belong, McKoy and Blackwood said authorities contacted a local man once know to own a tiger, but discovered he sold the animal to a zoo about two years ago. They followed other leads, but could not determine who the owner might be.
Both men urged the owner to make themselves known or let authorities know if the animal is now contained. There are no state laws against owning an exotic animal, McKoy said, though federal paperwork is required.
The owner or witnesses can call the Sheriff's Office at 734-0342 or Animal Control at 734-5448.
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