Man attacked by tiger at Florida Everglades attraction, authorities say

The incident occurred in the same county where a tiger attacked a man at a zoo.

March 23, 2022, 9:20 PM

A tiger attacked a man at a Florida Everglades attraction after walking into the animal's enclosure, authorities said.

The incident occurred Tuesday afternoon in Collier County, the same county where a man was attacked by a tiger at a zoo three months ago.

"We are having a hard time comprehending this happening again but want to share this breaking news with you," the Collier County Sheriff's Office said in a statement posted to Facebook Tuesday.

Deputies responded to a tiger attack at Wooten's Everglades Airboat Tours in Ochopee around 4:30 p.m., authorities said.

"Preliminary (very) info indicates a tiger in an enclosure at that location was being fed by it's [sic] caretaker when ... an employee of Wooten's who was not authorized to be with the tiger, entered the tiger's enclosure," the sheriff's office said. "The tiger attacked the man and caused injuries to both arms."

According to an incident report, a 48-year-old employee followed the caretaker to an outer enclosure where two tigers were being fed. The caretaker reportedly told authorities the man attempted to pet one of the tigers through a fence. Despite the caretaker's demands to stop, the man successfully put his hands through the fence, at which point the tiger bit both of his arms before letting go, according to the incident report.

First responders found the man lying on his back with "large open wounds to both his forearms," the incident report stated.

The man was transported to Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers. The sheriff's office did not have any updates on his condition following the attack.

The tiger's caretaker was able to "safely contain" the animal and it was not injured, the sheriff's office said.

PHOTO: Wooten's Everglades Airboat Tours in Ochopee, Fla.
Wooten's Everglades Airboat Tours in Ochopee, Fla.
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Wooten's Everglades Airboat Tours said in a statement that the incident occurred at its animal sanctuary, and that the tiger remains in its enclosure.

"Wooten's staff worked with law enforcement to investigate the incident," the company said. "The tiger's caretaker, who has worked at Wooten's for 25 years, said the employee was not authorized to enter the tiger's enclosure or feed the tiger."

The company noted that it is licensed to care for tigers by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Department of Agriculture.

According to its website, Wooten's is home to an animal sanctuary, as well as offers tours of the Everglades and hosts a live alligator show.

This is not the first time Collier County sheriff's deputies have had to respond to a tiger attack in recent months.

On Dec. 29, deputies were called to the Naples Zoo after a maintenance worker entered an unauthorized area and stuck his arm in a tiger enclosure, authorities said.

A responding Collier County deputy found the man with his arm in the tiger's mouth and fatally shot the 8-year-old male Malayan tiger, Eko, when he was unable to get it to release the arm, authorities said.

Last month, the sheriff's office announced it would not be filing charges against the man, River Rosenquist.

"After a thorough investigation of the incident and after consulting experts in state and federal criminal law and the prosecution of same, it has been concluded that there are no applicable existing laws with which to charge Mr. River Rosenquist for his irresponsible acts that ultimately caused the death of Eko the tiger," the sheriff's office said in a statement. "Simply put, there are no laws on the books that apply to this reckless act. We know this will be very difficult for everyone to understand. It is difficult for us to comprehend."

Rosenquist's arm was severely damaged in the attack, but doctors were able to avoid amputation, his family said.

"While River's recovery is unknown, the family remains steadfast in their faith for his future improvement on the long road ahead," his family said in a statement to ABC News via their attorney last month. "River's mental health and recovery continue to be our primary focus and we remain thankful for the respect and privacy everyone has allowed the family to have during this difficult process."

ABC News' Will Gretsky and Lisa Sivertsen contributed to this report.

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