Tigers escape Great Cats pen

Pair of Bengal tigers slip out of enclosure
By SCOTT ALLEN, sallen@thehj.com
Published: Monday, October 11, 2010 8:12 PM CDT

IDAVILLE — An Indiana conservation officer explained that no one was endangered after two tigers escaped their pen at Great Cats of Indiana on Saturday.

Indiana Conservation Officer Bill Hinshaw assisted Officer Matt Tholen in investigating an incident at the big cat sanctuary after a pair of Bengal tigers slipped out of their enclosure last weekend.

“The owner was guessing that the tigers were wrestling, they fell against (the corner) and popped the board and wire enough that they were able to get out,” Hinshaw said.

But, Hinshaw said, the tigers didn’t breach the perimeter fence at Great Cats and no one was endangered.

“The whole compound has a perimeter fencing that is, I think, 10 feet tall,” the conservation officer said. “They never got out of the compound; they were still enclosed within the perimeter fencing.”

But because, Hinshaw said, the tigers were jumping up on the perimeter fence Great Cats owner Rob Craig elected to take decisive action.

“He didn’t want to take any chances of them getting off the property,” said Hinshaw. “He elected to shoot them; he ended up wounding one and destroying the other.

“They never got off the property.”

He said the tiger that was wounded was hit in a fatty area on its body and actually retreated into a cage.

“The other one got a little more aggressive and was jumping more on the fence, and he elected to put it down and was able to destroy it,” Hinshaw said.

The conservation officer believes that when the tigers’ pen broke, they left it to explore the grounds but never left the perimeter fencing.

For neighbor Margaret Haskell, her only issue with Great Cats of Indiana has been overgrown weeds.

“Really I had the impression that the pens or the cages were pretty strong and well built,” said Haskell, who lives next door to the cat sanctuary.

“One thing that has concerned me has been all the weeds that are so tall, next to our house between the two places,” she said. “I thought at different times a tiger could get out and be in there and I wouldn’t know it until they jumped my fence.”

Haskell described a mostly affable neighbor relationship with Craig.

When the incident occurred Saturday night, at around 10:30 p.m., she was already asleep but her son heard a commotion.

“My son was in the family room out here and he heard … what sounded like some gun shots,” Haskell said, estimating five or six shots.

“He didn’t see anything that evening but the next day he commented that he wondered what had happened.”

Haskell said that she’s observed Great Cats of Indiana has been mostly closed this season though its typically advertised as open to the public seven days a week.

“It’s shut down to the public; it has been most of this year,” she said. “He’s got closed signs there at the gate.”

Though the website http://www.greatcatsofindiana.org/ is still online, the published phone number for Great Cats was disconnected Thursday.

“It’s just one of those things, I hope somebody double checks those cages and makes sure they’re still strong,” Haskell said.




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