Two injured in attack at drive-through safari

Wednesday, January 23rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GENTRY, Ark. (AP) _ The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to investigate a drive-through safari here after cougars attacked two animal handlers.

The workers were attacked Tuesday at the Wild Wilderness Drive Thru Safari while moving two of the animals to a bigger cage, Deputy Tom Brewster of the Benton County Sheriff's Office said.

Brian McCornich of Gentry and Richard Schauf of Broken Arrow, Okla., were injured, he said.

Schauf, who received multiple bites to one of his arms and a leg, was taken by helicopter to Northwest Medical Center in Springdale. McCornich was bitten in the face and was transported to Siloam Springs Memorial Hospital.

``They were using a T-device to channel the cats down a narrow span to move them to a different cage when they noticed a door open to one of the cages,'' Brewster said. ``They tried to go in to shut the door and a cougar apparently got past and attacked them.''

Bruce Mammeli, a regional supervisor of the USDA's animal care division, said he would send an inspector to review the attacks. His division is responsible for permitting private businesses that exhibit or distribute exotic animals.

The division's most recent inspection report of Wild Wilderness cited several problems, including insufficient barriers between the public and animals.

In November, Freddy Wilmoth, the son of Wild Wilderness owner Ross Wilmoth, was indicted for selling four tigers to a Missouri man. Freddy Wilmoth is to go on trial next month.

Several others were indicted in the illegal sale, purchase and transport of endangered cats who were eventually killed for their meat and skin. The indictments were part of ongoing investigations by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

According to federal law, owning captive-bred tigers must be for the propagation and good of the species. It is illegal to kill the animals for profit or for the purpose of selling their skins or any of their parts.