What the Hedengrans should have done, and what they did, are diametrically opposed. Had they alerted Fish and Game to his escape, and worked with them to get him recaptured, he would still be alive today. Their prosecution on a variety of federal charges is underway, and that is a good thing. Once they are convicted, and this situation is resolved, the remaining cats will be placed with reputable sanctuaries, and I have been assured by Fish and Game that all of them are fine, and none will be destroyed. We have already found places for several of the lesser cats, and all the remaining lions and tigers. True, with the loss of Tuffy, any victory will seem hollow, but there are groups working to change the state laws regarding the ownership of exotic cats by private citizens. Check out http://www.tuffylaw.org for ways you can help in that effort. Feel free to give me a call if you like at XXX
First off, I’m very glad to hear that the remaining cats are OK. That’s a big relief.
I’ve gone through a number of changes of opinion on all this as I have been able to gather information. At one point I was even ready to track down whoever made the decision to shoot and just beat the crap out of him. Pretty sad since I’m a federal agent myself. I’m with DHS though – and would never have been involved with something like this.
I’m still ready to believe that “Wildlife Services” does nothing other than blast away. I have since found out that Tuffy was not the only cat that got loose – a 90 Lb European Lynx was darted on January 31, and from what I was able to determine – probably returned to the Hedengrans. That, however, was done by California Fish & Game – and the feds were not involved. Possibly a Lynx was not considered a safety issue. The Hedengrans admitted ownership in that case, so it seems ludicrous that with that precedent they would then claim Tuffy was not theirs.
As much as I hate what happened, as a lifetime fed myself I can with extreme heartbreak understand what the thought process was through all of this. It makes me sick to play devil’s advocate but bear with me.
Allowing wildlife sanctuaries to get involved is a coordination headache and a legal liability nightmare. They are probably prohibited for liability reasons to let anyone get involved who is not a State or Federal employee. I wish that was not the case but I know from experience it must have been.
And as you point out, the lack of information was the real killer. For reasons mentioned above, they had to proceed on a worst case scenario – they had a 600 Lb completely feral zoo animal. Had they known what they were dealing with was a 350 Lb declawed domesticated pet, the dart gun option would have been valid even in this case. I have yet to actually go to Moorpark and walk the area, but proceeding from the assumption that habited areas were only a couple of hundred yards away, they were probably thinking ‘It’s going to bolt and kill people and we will be blamed for that”.
.338 Magnum bullets ricocheting through a housing development and a school can’t have looked good. These guys fired four times with rifles and missed twice. Dart guns are not as accurate. They may not have had the skill to hit from that distance and based on what they knew – they could not dare to get any closer.
Does that mean they were individual cowards? Probably not – they were taking orders from somewhere else. Someone making judgment calls based on information that from what I’m able to determine was as deliberately inaccurate as possible.
Which brings me to a question I have to ask: How much did you know about what was going on? Did YOU know the tiger was Tuffy? I’m not accusing, I simply want to know why nobody who could have provided accurate information that would have made a difference came forward.