Tiger attacks Florida airboat tour employee at wildlife park
A man was injured in a tiger attack Tuesday at a southwest Florida wildlife park connected to an Everglades airboat tour company, authorities said.
The man, believed to be in his 50s, was injured in both arms, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
Sheriff officials responded around 4 p.m. to Everglades airboat tours from Wooten to Ochopee, authorities said.
The victim, a Wooten’s employee, apparently entered the tiger enclosure when not permitted and was attacked during feeding time supervised by a guard, according to company officials and from the sheriff’s office.
The tiger, which was subdued by the keeper, was unharmed and remains in its enclosure, authorities said. The tiger keeper has worked at Wooten for 25 years.
The company added in a statement that the injured employee was taken to Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers without disclosing the victim’s condition.
“All of us at Wooten offer our heartfelt condolences to the employee and his family, and wish him a speedy recovery,” the statement read.
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Melody Kilborn said in a statement late Tuesday that the incident is under investigation. Wooten’s is licensed to care for tigers by the State Commission and the United States Department of Agriculture.
Kilborn’s account of the attack was different.
“Preliminary findings indicate that a facility employee attempted to feed the tiger when it sustained serious injuries to its hands and arms,” she said.
PETA released a statement reiterating its opposition to the use of animals for what it considers entertainment. As long as displays like Wooten’s are allowed, he said, “It will happen again.”
Visitors going on Everglades tours can also stop at Wooten Wildlife Sanctuary and Alligator Park. It lists two tigers, two lions, and an undisclosed number of otters, turtles, crocodiles, and alligators as part of the park.
In December, a man was seriously injured by a tiger when he stuck his arm in the cat enclosure at the Naples Zoo, also in Collier County. The Malayan tiger, named Eko, was shot dead by an MP, the man was not charged and his arm, originally slated for amputation, was reportedly saved.
On Tuesday, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office said in its statement on the Wooten’s attack, “We find it hard to understand that this is happening again.”