Erik Cowie, a zookeeper from the Netflix show Tiger King, was found dead at the age of 53. He died in an apartment in New York City. Police are still investigating the cause of death.
NYPD arrived at the apartment after they received a call about an unconscious man lying in the home. Police are waiting for the family to identify the body before they release an official identification.
According to police reports, a friend found Cowie face down on a bed in the apartment on Sept. 3, and he wasn’t moving. It is unclear who owned the apartment and what Cowie was doing so far away from his home in Oklahoma.
The NYC Medical Examiner scheduled a toxicology report which will determine the cause of death. There were no drugs found at the apartment and police haven’t found anything suspicious about the death at this point. Police aren’t certain if foul play was involved or if Erik Cowie had underlying conditions. Police are still trying to determine what happened.
Earlier in the year, Erik Cowie was picked up in Oklahoma for a DUI that resulted in a car crash. He pled guilty to the DUI and was scheduled to appear in court, but he never showed up.
During his time on the TV show Tiger King, Cowie said that he came to the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park after suffering from a problem with alcohol addiction. But he claimed that he didn’t have a drug problem. Many fans of the series thought that the zookeeper was addicted to meth because of his bad teeth. Cowie explained that his teeth had rotted because he was old. He did get his teeth fixed after the series ended.
Cowie became famous after appearing on a couple of episodes of the Netflix series. The show became popular during the beginning of quarantine. It focused on an exotic zoo in Oklahoma and the owner Joe Exotic.
Erik Cowie was a zookeeper for the handful of tigers that were kept at the zoo, and he was even called the head zookeeper for Joe Exotic’s big cats. After Joe Exotic was thrown into prison, Cowie stayed at the zoo and even testified against the Tiger King during his trial.
Joe Exotic was arrested and put into prison for his involvement in the murder plot of animal rights activist Carole Baskin. During the show, viewers learned that he and Carole Baskin were in a feud over the treatment of tigers in captivity. There was a trademark lawsuit that Baskin filed over Exotic’s use of the phrase “Big Cat Rescue” which is the name of Baskin’s animal rescue. Joe Exotic was sentenced to 22 years in prison for hiring a hitman to try to kill Baskin.
The zookeeper testified against Exotic and told the jury that he saw his boss kill and abuse some of the animals in the zoo. He was also convicted of illegally selling tiger cubs and falsifying records.
Carole Baskin became the owner of the zoo after Joe Exotic was sentenced to his prison sentence. She received the zoo as a settlement for her trademark lawsuit against Joe Exotic. She sold the zoo for $140,000 and turned over the tigers to the DOJ. One of the conditions of the sale of the property was that the land can’t be used as a zoo for the next 100 years.