'Tiger King' Zookeeper Erik Cowie Dies at 53

The zookeeper Erik Cowie, who was featured extensively in the Netlfix documentary 'Tiger King', has died. He was found face down at his home in New York City.

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The zookeeper who was featured extensively in the Netflix docuseries Tiger King has died, TMZ reports. He was 53 years old.

Law enforcement officials told the outlet that Erik Cowie was found by a friend face down at a residence in New York City. Authorities said they don’t suspect foul play at this moment, and that no drugs were found at the scene, though a toxicology test will still likely be performed.

Cowie became a public figure after the success of the docuseries, where he made several appearances as Joe Exotic’s head keeper. Cowie even continued to work at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park after Exotic was sent to prison. He often expressed his gratitude to Joe in the series, saying at one point that he was “at the end of [his] rope” before Joe offered him a job. Cowie ultimately wound up testifying against Exotic, telling the court that he’d seen his boss order some of the animals in his care to be shot and killed, a testimony that contributed to his eventual conviction.

Fans of the show long speculated that Cowie abused methamphetamine due to his rotting teeth, but he pushed back on those accusations, saying he merely had a drinking problem before Exotic came along. He even got his teeth fixed post-Tiger King fame. The former zookeeper unfortunately ran into legal trouble towards the end of his life. Earlier this year he was busted for a DUI in Oklahoma after a nasty car accident. He pled guilty and was about to be sentenced before he skipped town. An arrest warrant was issued, and it’s clear now that he ended up in New York City.

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