Liger Attack

Posted by: Loren Coleman on October 30th, 2008

Rocky the liger, shown in this undated file photo, attacked a volunteer at a Wagoner County wildlife sanctuary Wednesday, October 29, 2008, officials said. Photo provided by The Tulsa World.

A liger is the product of crossbreeding between a male lion and a female tiger, having features of both but generally being larger than either. A tigon (sometimes written “tiglon”) is the zoo-bred offspring of a tiger and a lioness. It is only the opposite cross, of a lion and a tigress, that produces and is called a liger.

It is a lion-tiger mix (a “liger”) named Rocky that has attacked a handler, and is in today’s animal news. The unfortunate incident involves an animal known for its aggressive nature.

Authorities say a handler at a Wagoner County, Oklahoma wild animal sanctuary suffered a puncture wound to the neck after being attacked by Rocky during a feeding. Rocky is a popular resident of the attraction.

Peter Getz, 32, was bitten in the upper torso and the neck area at Safari’s Animal Sanctuary around noon on Wednesday, October 29, 2008, according to the Associated Press.

Paramedics performed CPR on Getz. Wagoner County sheriff’s deputies also responded. Getz was reportedly medivac’d to Saint John Medical Center, where he is has been listed in critical condition.

Reportedly, Getz was trying to feed the liger when it attacked him, leaving wounds on his chest and neck.

Calls to the animal sanctuary went to voicemail without ringing. The voicemail message says “a volunteer had an injury. Due to the emotional strain of the situation, Safari’s will be closed until further notice.”

The Safari’s Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary is located at 26881 East 58 Street, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.

Safari’s Sanctuary in Broken Arrow was founded in 1995 to do just that. We rescue all kinds of wildlife, from big cats, wolves, bears, primates, hoof stock, birds, reptiles..etc. Currently housing around 200 animals. All from either private individuals who could not keep or from zoo’s that over breed. ~ Lori Ensign – President, Safari’s Inc. (shown in photos)

Dr. Kay Backues says Getz used to work with her at the Tulsa Zoo.

“He was very passionate about animals in his care,” said Backues.

She says there was always a special understanding handlers had when tending to wild animals.

“It’s important to remember they aren’t domesticated and they are wild animals,” said Backues.

“Sometimes things happen when you don’t expect it,” said neighbor Darla Adams.

Adams says she stood by with the park owner as Getz was flown to the hospital.

“I prayed with her the whole time and I was there until they left with the helicopter,” said Adams.

“It’s surprising this even happened,” said neighbor Kurt Pickering.

The park will remain closed until further notice. There is no word yet on what will be done with the liger.

In its 13 years of existence, the Safari’s Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary has not had any problems, other than five of its wolves having been poisoned to death in 2006, by someone not linked to the zoo, throwing toxic meat into their enclosure. The zoo then spent several thousand dollars to upgrade its lighting and security.

In an unrelated incident, in 2003, an animal sanctuary volunteer died when a Bengal tiger attacked her at another facility, Safari Joe’s, in Mayes County, Oklahoma.

The US Department of Agriculture monitors animal sanctuaries.

According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, accredited zoos frown on the practice of mixing two different species and have never bred ligers. Keeping the two species separate has always been standard procedure. However, the AZA has admitted that ligers have occurred by accident. Several AZA zoos are reported to have ligers. Safari’s Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary is not an AZA-accredited zoo. Oklahoma’s only AZA-accredited zoos are the Oklahoma City Zoological Park and the Tulsa Zoo and Living Museum.

Jungle Island in Miami is home to a liger named Hercules (shown above), the world’s largest non-obese liger, said to weigh over 1,100 lbs, over twice the size of a male lion or a male tiger. The liger is the largest animal in the cat family (Felidae).

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

10 Responses to “Liger Attack”

  1. shumway10973 responds:

    I’m sorry to hear that. I’d hate to see anything happen to the big thing.

  2. kittenz responds:

    Ligers – male ligers anyway – are usually thought to be much less aggressive than other big cats – anecdotally it is because they are sterile and don’t have high testosterone levels. I don’t know if any studies back that up.

    What’s important to remember is that any large, powerful animal can hurt or kill a person – even though hurting or killing a person may not have been its intent. I mean think about it. Lots of people can’t even handle a big dog – and a cat pound for pound is much stronger and more agile than a dog of the same size. Even a tame 10-pound housecat can inflict serious injuries to a person. Magnify that 10-pound cat by about seventy and you get some indication of the size of a male liger – and they can get much larger even than that. Catch that otherwise placid big cat on a bad day, and even a slap or snap can easily kill a human. People have been seriously injured or killed by big cats, even when it was obvious that the big cat was just playing. They’re inherently dangerous animals.

    I hope that Mr. Getz recovers quickly and without incident. What a terrible thing to have happen to someone who apparently was an experienced, caring animal handler.

  3. flitzanu responds:

    very unfortunate indeed. this park is in my area outside of Tulsa, i’ve been there a few times. and i will say, this Liger is BIIIIIGGG. and in no insult to the park, remember it’s all volunteer work and donations, so they aren’t in top-quality enclosures. i’m sure that in itself makes things much more dangerous for the amazing people that help these animals.

    if i remember correctly, one of the anecdotes told was Rocky enjoys playing with bowling balls, and apparently has cracked a couple in his jaws before.

  4. Loren Coleman responds:

    Yes, Kittenz, opinion runs the full range, regarding whether or not ligers are more aggressive vs less aggressive. The complex nature of hybrids usually falls on the side of more caution, however, and what you say about the mere inability to control such a huge animal may be the source of some written statements on their aggression.

    Deb: What are you drawing?
    Napoleon Dynamite: A liger.
    Deb: What’s a liger?
    Napoleon Dynamite: It’s pretty much my favorite animal. It’s like a lion and a tiger mixed… bred for its skills in magic.

  5. kittenz responds:

    It just goes to show that you can’t make sweeping generalizations about any kind of animal. Even where it’s true that a certain percentage of any given species exhibits any given behavioral traits, there are always some individuals and some situations that are different.

    I don’t have any personal experience with ligers, but I will say that the worst dog bite I ever had was from a friendly dog. Friendly chow (I know, lots of people think that is an oxymoron, but he was); I had been taking care of him for nearly a decade, but apparently he was having a bad day that day, and in a flash, before either his owner or I could react, he made hamburger of my forearm. I also think of my own cat Halloween, who likes to nibble toes and sometimes gets a little too enthusiastic. Even a baby lion a few weeks old can lay your hand open.

    I hope they don’t kill the cat, but if the enclosures are not top-quality, and they can’t afford to upgrade them, they should really consider placing the liger in a more secure facility.

  6. mystery_man responds:

    Kittenz- I couldn’t have said it any better. I will say that although ligers are thought to be less aggressive on the whole, they also display more psychological problems than other big cats. This is due primarily to the difference between the social habits of lions and tigers, lions being social animals and tigers being solitary. When you get hybrids from two distinctly different sets of instincts like this, you run the risk of the animal becoming confused, depressed, and displaying a wide range of mental problems. Add to this the fact that captivity can cause added stress, and I’d be willing to say that one of these problems could have possibly contributed to the sudden attack.

    A lot of times, these captive big cats and other animals such as chimpanzees and elephants seem very tame and friendly towards people, which can instill a sense of complacency when working with them. What needs to be remembered is that these are wild animals, with strong instincts and often unpredictable behavior. As Kittenz mentioned, even dogs, which have been bred over many generations to be domestic animals, can attack under the right circumstances and this is especially true of wild animals (and yes, even captive bred tigers or lions are wild animals). They should ALWAYS be treated with caution and respect, no matter how cuddly and tame they seem.

    This is really a tragic story. I wonder what they will do with the cat. Sad.

  7. Ole Bub responds:

    On a sad note….

    Rocky’s keeper, Peter getz, died last night from the injuries he suffered.

    I live within a few miles of Safari’s Exotic Sanctuary, the fate of “Rocky” the Liger is uncertain at this point. Safari, has a commendable record of providing large exotic animal rescue and sanctuary.

    It is believed feeding deer roadkill may have excited Rocky to attack his keeper…according to Dr. Dan Danner, a local large animal Vet who performs volunteer work at the Sanctuary.

    Rescue…the gift of life…

    ole bub and the dawgs

  8. Ann Unknown responds:

    … anecdotally it is because they are sterile and don’t have high testosterone levels. I don’t know if any studies back that up.

    Neither do I, Kittenz. If all hybrids were, as a rule, neutered, because they could not be used for breeding, there would be some precedence for this belief (Was this liger, I wonder?). Other wise, why would a hybrid be less aggressive?

    By far, the most aggressive animal I can ever recall was – a hybrid. Due to his ignorance of livestock, the father of a friend once bought home from auction an adorable, little mini-mule as a “big surprise” for his daughter. Before it could be subdued by several strong men with ropes, and put in (first) a masonry walled shed (it broke most of the high placed windows out, and kicked down a solid wooden door), and finally, a stout, metal-pipe cattle pen (that it also mangle beyond repair), it managed to injure both him and several of his helpers, and to take down a carport, as well as several backyard fences. The cute, shaggy, 5-year-old, miniature mule turned out to be a fully “intact” stud, and not a gelding (a neutered male equine). I shudder to think what a full-sized mule stud would be capable of.

    This is pretty much why it is not really known if male horseXdonkey hybrids are ever fertile. Though, mare mules have been found to be, on extremely rare occasions, since spaying a female equine has been, up to quite recently, cost prohibitive.

    My prayers go out to Peter Getz’ family, and the people at the rescue sanctuary. As financial times get more challenging, I fear that the risk of doing good, will get more challenging as well. Keeping any animal in less than adequate facilities may become an “above and beyond …” mission. Sad. Very sad.

  9. rkking23 responds:

    That man, was my cousin. Please keep the family in your thoughts and prayers.

  10. kittenz responds:


    My heart goes out to your family. Mr. Getz must have been a really interesting and fun person to know. From all appearances, he died doing what he loved. May he rest in peace.

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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