A tiger living at actress Tippi Hedren's wildlife sanctuary mauled a caretaker Monday afternoon, leaving the man in critical condition with multiple bites, a Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesman said.
The incident occurred about 3 p.m. at Hedren's Shambala Preserve in Acton, which houses about 70 African lions, Siberian and Bengal tigers, leopards, servals, mountain lions and bobcats.
FOR THE RECORD:
Mauling: An article in Tuesday's California section about the mauling of a caretaker by a tiger at a wildlife sanctuary in Acton said that in 2005 a man was attacked at another sanctuary by a chimp he had raised. In the earlier incident, St. James Davis was attacked by two other chimps, not his own. —
In an interview, Hedren said the 40-year-old caretaker was jumped by a tiger as the man was cleaning the animal's enclosure. Fire officials airlifted the man, identified as Chris Orr, to a hospital. He was listed in critical but stable condition, said county Fire Department spokesman Brendon Peart.
"It's a terrible, terrible thing that has happened," Hedren said, adding that many of the tigers in her sanctuary come from abused backgrounds. "Who knows what happened to this tiger? People have kept them in closets, basements. Two of them were kept in air-conditioning systems."
The tiger in Monday's incident is a 4-year-old male. Hedren said state Fish and Game officers visited the sanctuary to investigate the attack.
"It came walking over to them," she said of the tiger. "What makes these animals so dangerous is for no reason at all this kind of accident can happen. It isn't the tiger's fault. It is the fault of the people breeding these animals in the first place that leads them to be here."
She described the tiger in Monday's incident as a "mutt" that was probably bred in the United States as an exotic pet. The tiger is one of the youngest at the shelter and doesn't have a history of violence, she said.
Hedren said the preserve's cats live out their lives in enclosures and are not trained.
Hedren, best known for her starring role in the Alfred Hitchcock film "The Birds," has been pushing legislation for years that would crack down on people who keep tigers as pets and that would also prohibit commercial breeding of the animals. At a congressional hearing in 2000, Hedren; her daughter, actress Melanie Griffith; and actress Bo Derek spoke out on the issue. All three have been attacked by big cats. At age 19, Griffith required 50 stitches in her face when a lion jumped her. And Derek was bitten on the shoulder in 1981 during the filming of "Tarzan, the Ape Man."
Monday's mauling marks the latest of several incidents in recent years involving local animal sanctuaries.
In 2005, the owners of a Moorpark animal sanctuary were arrested for allegedly allowing a 352-pound Siberian tiger to escape and prowl suburban neighborhoods for four weeks while denying that the cat was theirs. They pleaded guilty earlier this year.
Also in 2005, a chimp at a Kern County sanctuary attacked its former owner, who had driven from West Covina to celebrate the animal's 39th birthday. St. James Davis suffered critical injuries.
Hedren's sanctuary is about 40 miles north of Los Angeles. The organization's website has photos and biographies of many of the big cats, who have names such as Daisy and Boo.