‘Tiger King’ zookeeper Erik Cowie’s cause of death revealed



The cause of death for Erik Cowie, Joe Exotic’s former zookeeper featured in Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, is “acute and chronic alcohol use,” according to New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. 

Cowie, 52, was found unconscious and then pronounced dead at a Brooklyn apartment on Sept. 3. 

Erik Cowie, who appeared in

Erik Cowie, who appeared in Tiger King, has died. (Photo: Netflix)

More than six weeks later, officials also determined that the manner of his death was “natural.”

Cowie cared for the cats owned by Exotic — whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage — and housed at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Okla., before and after Exotic was imprisoned for offenses against animals and for attempting to hire people to kill big-cat activist Carole Baskin. He testified against his manager of roughly five years at Exotic’s 2019 trial.

When Cowie died, Exotic reacted bluntly. “So am I shocked he is gone? No, not a bit. I put him through rehab in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and still [gave] him a home and a job,” Exotic told the Daily Mail in an interview published five days after his death. “He had a horrible disease of alcohol.”

Meanwhile, the zoo where Cowie once worked no longer exists. A court awarded the property to Baskin in June 2020, as part of a $1 million judgment that Exotic had been ordered to pay her in a lawsuit. She sold it in August 2021, with the stipulation that the owners could not use it as a zoo for 100 years and could not use words such as “tiger,” “Joe Exotic,” “G.W. Zoo” or “big cat” in the name, TMZ reported.

In other Tiger King news, Discovery+ announced last week that Baskin will star in and executive produce a two-part documentary called Carole Baskin’s Cage Fight, which trails her and her team, including husband Howard Baskin, as they search G.W. Zoo for “lingering evidence of animal trafficking and abuse.”

A second season of Tiger King — presumably without Baskin, who has heavily criticized the series — is expected later this year.


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