Erik Cowie, one of the zookeepers who rose to unexpected fame as a main cast member on the Netflix documentary Tiger King in the spring of 2020, was found dead in New York City on Friday, September 3.
He was 53 years old.
According to TMZ, a friend of Cowie’s discovered the corpse inside of a residence, face down in the bedroom.
It’s unclear at this time just who owns the residence in question… because Cowie lived in Oklahoma.
No drugs were found at the scene and a toxicology report is expected to be completed in the near future.
Cowie appeared on the aforementioned reality show as one of now-imprisoned star Joe Exotic’s longtime animal caretakers.
After Joe was sent to prison for helping to plan the murder of his long-time rival, Cowie stayed and took care of his big cats at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park.
Cowie eventually testified against the controversial animal wrangler who allegedly abused and killed some of his animals, confirming under oath that Exotic was, indeed, responsible for many deaths at his zoo.
Cowie was arrested for a DUI in Oklahoma earlier this year after being involved in a car crash.
He pleaded guilty and was supposed to be sentenced shortly after the incident, yet he failed to turn up for his hearing.
Cowie had confessed to having a drinking problem in the past.
Per a TMZ insider, he previously said he was “at the end of [his] rope” with his alcoholism prior to finding Exotic and turning his life around.
Exotic — whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage — is serving 22 years in a federal medical prison in Fort Worth, Texas, after he allegedly tried to hire two hitmen to kill his business rival Carole Baskin.
The Tiger King Park Instagram account, meanwhile, shared a photo and video of Erik on Tuesday, along with the message:
“It comes with great sadness to say that a dear friend and hard working employee has passed away. Erik Cowie dedicated every waking moment caring for the animals at GWEAP & Tiger King Park.
“After the animals were ripped away by the Department of Justice, he sadly couldn’t take it anymore.”
Concluded this message:
He absolutely loved all the animals and would show up early to check on each and everyone.
He had his Demons but the animals helped bring joy and happiness in his life. #rip #tigerking #erikcowie.
May Erik Cowie rest in peace.