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Tue, July 23

'Big Cat' mauls owner of Keepers of the Wild animal park near Kingman

Jonathan Kraft, founder and director of Keepers of the Wild, greets a rescued tiger cub in 2014. Most people are not allowed to get this close but Kraft knows the animals very well. (Courtesy photo)

Jonathan Kraft, founder and director of Keepers of the Wild, greets a rescued tiger cub in 2014. Most people are not allowed to get this close but Kraft knows the animals very well. (Courtesy photo)

VALENTINE — The owner of Valentine-based Keepers of the Wild Animal Sanctuary was flown to a Las Vegas hospital on Monday for emergency medical treatment after he was attacked by what authorities described as a “large cat.”

The founder of Keepers of the Wild is Jonathan Kraft, according to past Daily Miner coverage.

According to Mohave County Sheriff Doug Schuster, authorities are unsure whether the animal was a tiger or a lion. Officials say the owner entered a cage at the location to move the animal into another area of the enclosure and was severely mauled.

Keepers of the Wild is a nonprofit organization founded in 1995 and is licensed by the USDA, the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The animal sanctuary has been home to animals deemed either unfit for the wild or having spent too long in captivity – including predators such as lions, leopards and cougars; as well as emus, ostriches, cows, bison, burros and llamas.

The incident is being investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and is believed by deputies to be a workplace accident.

OTHER ATTACKS

This appears to be one of about six incidents of its kind since the sanctuary was opened at its original location in Las Vegas. According to the Las Vegas Sun, in 2003 a 21-year-old employee of the wild animal sanctuary, Sarah Roy, was hospitalized after a tiger attack. Roy sustained a tiger bite on her lower leg resulting in four puncture wounds. Roy had reportedly been cleaning the tiger's metal pool in its cage when she was attacked by Tigger, a then 6-year-old, 500-pound male Bengal tiger who had been rescued from a private home in Texas.

At that time, Kraft told the Las Vegas Sun that there had been four other animal bite incidents at his facilities. The most serious of which was in October 1996, when Keepers trainer Charlie Stagnaro, then 65, was feeding 8-year-old Bonnie, a Bengal tiger, when the tiger attacked him. Stagnaro needed surgery on his feet and legs as a result, the Sun reported.

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