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Friday, December 28th, 2007 -- 12:21 PM

The zookeeper of Wildwood Zoo in Marshfield has been watching events unfold in San Francisco with some interest, but doesn't believe it will have a big impact on their operation.

A tiger escaped its enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo Tuesday and killed a zoo visitor.

"They're big cats. You don't get careless around them," explains Wildwood zookeeper Jerry Jepson. He's worked in the industry for 30 years and has experience working with tigers. "You didn't close to where the cat could reach out and grab you."

There's an old saying: A leopard can't change it's spots. Jepson says that goes for all wild animals.

"You hate to give them human traits, but yes, animals do have different personalities," Jepson says. "Some are very easy going, some are skittish, some guys could care less."

"They react differently to different people, some people they do get along with. You're always aware when you're around these guys."

The zoo in Marshfield has a number of potentially dangerous animals: Grizzly bears, mountain lions, lynx and wolves to name a few.

Jepson say the [url=http://www.aza.org]Association of Zoos and Aquariums[/url] makes recommendations on how animals should be contained.

"They know what an animal can do. It's on record how high an animal can jump, and that's what you build on," Jepson explains.

The recommendations have worked, until this week. This was the first visitor fatality resulting from an animal escape at an AZA-accredited zoo.

And, with the release of some mountain lions at a zoo in Manitowoc, Jepson says zoo officials will continue to be vigilant to protect the public from the animals and the animals from the people.

On The Web:
[url=http://www.ci.marshfield.wi.us/pr/zoo/]Wildwood Park and Zoo website[/url]

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