Tiger escapes cage at S.F. Zoo, killing one and injuring two before being shot | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tiger escapes cage at S.F. Zoo, killing one and injuring two before being shot

Louise Chu / The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO – A tiger escaped from its pen at the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas Day, killing one man and injuring two others before police shot the cat dead, police said.

The three men were all in their 20s; they were together and were not zoo employees, said San Francisco Police spokesman Steve Mannina. They were attacked just after the 5 p.m. closing time Tuesday outside the zoo’s Terrace Cafe, on the east end of the 1,000-acre zoo grounds.

It was unclear how the tiger escaped or how long it was on the loose. The zoo, which is open 365 days a year, was evacuated immediately after the attack was reported.

Police arrived on the scene to find the tiger on top of its victim. As officers approached, it moved toward them, and they opened fire with handguns, killing the tiger, Mannina said.

The two who were injured were in critical but stable condition at San Francisco General Hospital, said San Francisco Fire Department spokesman Lt. Ken Smith. A call to the supervising nurse at San Francisco General was not immediately returned.

“This is a tragic event for San Francisco,” Smith said. “We pride ourselves in our zoo, and we pride ourselves in tourists coming and looking at our city.”

Authorities did not believe there were any other people attacked, but because it was dark, they could not be certain. Investigators remained on the scene, and Smith said a thorough sweep of the grounds would be conducted in the morning.

It was not immediately clear what kind of tiger was involved in the attack. The zoo has both Siberian and Sumatran tigers, according to its Web site.

Officials at first worried that four tigers had escaped, but they soon learned that only one had escaped its pen, according to Mannina.

Last December, one of the zoo’s tigers mauled a zookeeper during a regular public feeding. The 350-pound animal reached through the cage’s iron bars and badly lacerated her arm. The zoo’s Lion House was temporarily closed during an investigation.

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