Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tiger bites volunteer at refuge

Khan, a 7-year-old Siberian tiger, pulled a volunteer into his cage Friday.

By Brian D. Bridgeford Posted: Saturday, October 23, 2010 3:30 am

ROCK SPRINGS - A Baraboo man was flown to University of Wisconsin Hospital on Friday - but is reported to be recovering - after having his arm grabbed by a tiger at a big cat refuge.

Shortly after 12:30 p.m. Sauk County 911 dispatch received a call from Jeff Kozlowski at the Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue and Education reporting an injury to a volunteer, according a statement by Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Sheriff Richard "Chip" Meister.

The North Freedom First Responders were called to assist John M. Meeker, 38, who was injured by a 7-year-old Siberian tiger named Kahn, Meister reported. Meeker had been watering the cat through his enclosure of chain link fencing. Kahn grabbed the man's arm and pulled it into the enclosure. Other people at the refuge were able to get Meeker away from the cat and administer first aid.

A short time after the incident, North Freedom firefighters could be heard over the police scanner setting up a landing zone on a field near the refuge. Meeker was taken to University Hospital in Madison by the Med Flight helicopter ambulance, Meister stated.

Kozlowski said Meeker was watering Kahn from outside his cage by pouring through the 4-inch-square chain link mesh of the cat's enclosure. In an act Kozlowski said was playful, not aggressive, Kahn grabbed a loose sleeve of Meeker's sweatshirt and pulled his hand into the cage.

Meeker reflexively tried to pull his arm back. The tiger then clamped his mouth down harder, resulting in a number of punctures to Meeker's skin, he said.

"There's some puncture wounds and tearing," Kozlowski said. "He's got full feeling in his fingers and can move them."

Kozlowski said he does not consider the event an attack. Witnesses reported Kahn was not growling, he said.

"He was just playing," Kozlowski said. "He's grabbed my hand before and pulled it through."

Kahn is up-to-date on rabies and other shots, so Kozlowski said he doesn't expect ramifications from the incident.

"He's quarantined for 10 days, which is regular for an animal bite," he said. "But he's already quarantined - he's in his own cage."

Shortly before 6 p.m. Kozlowski said he had spoken with Meeker's wife Emily on the phone moments earlier. John Meeker's wounds were being cleaned and sutured by hospital staff, he said.

The incident remains under investigation by the Sheriff's Department, according to Meister.

http://www.wiscnews.com/baraboonewsrepublic/news/article_366cf546-de48-11df-a784-001cc4c03286.html

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/

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