Tiger attacks Florida airboat tour worker at wildlife park

Tiger attacks Florida airboat tour worker at wildlife park

March 23, 2022

A man was injured in a tiger attack Tuesday at a southwest Florida wildlife park connected to an Everglades airboat tours company, authorities said.

The man, who is thought to be about 50, suffered injuries to both arms and was hospitalized in unknown condition, the Collier County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

Sheriff’s officials responded about 4 p.m. to the Wooten’s Everglades Airboat Tours in Ochopee, the office said.

The victim, an employee of Wooten's, apparently entered the tiger enclosure despite not being authorized and was attacked during feeding time overseen by a caretaker, the department said.

The tiger, which was put under control by the caretaker, was uninjured, sheriff's officials said.

Wooten's didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesperson Melody Kilborn said in a statement late Tuesday that the incident was under investigation.

Her account of the attack differed:

"Preliminary findings indicate that an employee of the facility attempted to feed the tiger when he received severe injuries to his hands and arms," Kilborn said.

PETA issued a statement that reiterated its opposition to using animals for what it deems to be entertainment. As long as displays like Wooten's are allowed, it said, "This will happen again."

Visitors who go for tours of the Everglades can also stop at Wooten's Animal Sanctuary & Alligator Park. It lists two tigers, two lions and undisclosed numbers of otters, turtles, crocodiles and alligators as part of the park.

In December, a man was badly injured by a tiger when he put his arm into the cat's enclosure at the Naples Zoo, also in Collier County. The Malayan tiger, named Eko, was fatally shot by a deputy, the man was not charged, and his arm, initially slated for amputation, was reported to have been saved.

On Tuesday, the Collier County Sheriff's Office said in its statement about the attack at Wooten's, "We are having a hard time comprehending this happening again."

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