Eric Cowie, head zookeeper from the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park featured in Netflix series “Tiger King,” was found dead this week. The long haired 53-year-old big cat lover was found in a Brooklyn home, according to police sources. No foul play was suspected, sources indicated he likely died of natural causes but an autopsy will still be required. It’s not clear if Cowie had moved to Brooklyn, or was just visiting a friend. The Oklahoma native was discovered in the bedroom of the home on E. 55th St. near Remsen Ave. in East Flatbush.
Cowie was open about his struggles with alcohol but denied rumors of a drug addiction. Police say no drugs were found in the residence. Cowie made the statement in response to the many questions and comments from fans regarding his missing teeth. “No, I don’t do meth, I never have, I like sleeping too much. I used to have a drinking problem and now I do not,” Cowie told interviewer Joel McHale in a final episode of the Tiger King. The Netflix series that documented Cowie and the rest of Joe Exotic’s crew debuted in March 2020 and had more than 34 million viewers in its first 10 days, according to Nielsen ratings.
Cowie testified at Joe Exotic’s trial for killing tigers at the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park in Oklahoma. Cowie worked at the facility for five years after finding the job listing on Craigslist. Joe Exotic, who is actually Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison. During the trial, Cowie testified that he “knew cats were getting shot” in 2017 when five tigers were killed by Joe Exotic in one day. Joe Exotic was not only convicted of killing tigers but also for attempting to hire someone to kill a rival big cat owner. This adds some mystery to Cowie’s death and makes us wonder what will come back in the autopsy. Did Cowie actually die of natural causes? Time will tell…
Written by: Erinn Malloy