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Tiger mauls woman at zoo benefit

Patron also shot in leg as officer tries to scare animal off

Published: Sunday, Aug. 13 2000 12:00 a.m. MDT

BOISE — A woman was mauled by a tiger and shot by a police officer's bullet at the Zoo Boise before the 600-pound animal was locked into a secure area.

The giant cat slipped through a cage door left open through "human error," police reported. It happened during an annual benefit dinner called "Feast for the Beast."

Janet C. Gold, 40, suffered a gunshot wound to the leg when Police Sgt. Rich Schnebly tried to scare the tiger away by shooting near the animal as it attacked the woman.

"The sergeant fired two shots in rapid succession, and the tiger moved," said Boise Police Chief Don Pierce. "He (the officer) was most at risk. There were no other options."

The Boise woman was one of about a dozen patrons along with an on-duty police officer who took an "unscheduled tour with past donors" of the Amur tiger area Friday night, said Jim Dumont, superintendent of recreation.

"It appears that one of the doors was not locked or closed," Dumont said. "We are unsure how it occurred at this point in time."

The tiger entered the area where the donors had gathered.

"Twelve people ran away from the tiger," Pierce said.

But the cat pinned Gold by the shoulders and the back of the head.

Schnebly fired three bullets, aimed near the tiger.

"The second shot fired struck the side of the cage and ricocheted from the wall and entered the woman's thigh," Pierce said. "The first shot may have struck the tiger."

Officials said they are not sure which tiger attacked the woman because the zoo's two Amur tiger brothers — Tiga and Tundra — are almost identical.

Dumont said the Amur tiger is an endangered species and that they "haven't made a determination about destroying the tiger."

Gold was taken to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center for injuries to the head, neck, leg and shoulder areas. She was listed in serious but stable condition Saturday following surgery for a gunshot wound to her left leg, Saint Alphonsus spokeswoman Roseanna Moulton said.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said Gold was talking and alert Saturday afternoon.

The zoo's two Amur tigers come from a region where Russia, China and North Korea meet. Amur tigers are the largest cats in the world. Males can weigh between 700 and 800 pounds when fully grown.

The "Feast for the Beast" event featured Jack Hanna, the former head of the Columbus Zoo in Ohio and a frequent guest on national television shows. There were about 800 donors at the event. Tickets were priced at $25. Officials said that alcohol was sold at the event.

An investigation "to determine exactly what occurred" is continuing, Pierce said.

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