UPDATED: October 22, 2010 — 7:52 p.m.
Scary moments in Sauk county Friday afternoon.
A Baraboo man volunteering at a big cat animal sanctuary was bitten by a tiger as he tried to fill the feline’s water dish.
Emily Meeker says Friday started like any other day.
“My husband and I were out here, we volunteer out here pretty regularly,”
In their free time, she and her husband John like to help out at the Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue and Education Center in Rock Springs.
“These are some of the happiest big cats I’ve seen in my life,” said Meeker.
But Emily says Friday, John got a little too close to the cage.
“The claw just caught his arm…he just caught his sleeve. And their claws are so big that they can reach out and catch I would say two or three inches past the fence,”
Kahn is a 600-pound male Siberian tiger. The cat reached through the fence, caught John’s clothes with his claws and pulled his arm inside the cage.
“He did bite once, and he shook a couple of times as they normally do in a playful mode. I got to get the cat to let go, that was my initial reaction,”
And Kahn eventually did, but not before doing some damage.
“At first he was in shock and wasn’t really feeling a whole lot. There were tears that were wide open, it was hanging open, I mean you could see inside. He’s got feeling in his fingers, didn’t get the vein in his arm at all, missed it thank God, ”
Meeker says no one is blaming the tiger for what happened.
“So many people, when something like this happens, say ‘Oh the cat attacked,’. No, the cat did not attack, the cat wanted to play with him, that’s it, ”
She says John will make a full recovery.
“I know my husband pretty well, we’ve been married for 10 years and I can guarantee as soon as he’s able, he’ll be back out here,”
After the incident, Meeker was airlifted to UW Hospital where he’s just out of surgery and listed in fair condition.
UPDATED Friday, October 22, 2010 — 3:55 p.m.
Originally posted Friday, October 22, 2010 — 2:00 p.m.
This afternoon, emergency crews responded to an incident at Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue in Rock Springs in Sauk County.
The Sauk County Sheriff’s Office wouldn’t elaborate on the incident. However, a witness told NBC15’s Tim Elliott that a volunteer, identified as John Meeker, was filling the tiger’s water dish when the tiger grabbed a hold of Meeker’s clothing. The tiger managed to pull Meeker close to the cage, then bit him.
Meeker has been a volunteer at Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue for the past 6 to 8 months.
The tiger is Khan, a Siberian tiger born in 2003.
University of Wisconsin Hospital spokesperson Toni Morrissey told NBC15 News that a Medflight emergency helicopter was dispatched to the facility for a person with an arm injury. As of 3:55 p.m., Meeker was listed in fair condition.
More information is expected to be released this afternoon.
The Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue was established in March of 2005.
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