One of Joe Exotic’s Tiger King adversaries has passed away.
According to reports, Erik Cowie (pictured above), who was a zookeeper on the hit Netflix series, was found dead on Friday evening, face down in a bed inside a New York City apartment. He was just 53 years old.
It’s not clear who lived in the apartment he was found inside, but the late zookeeper was apparently just visiting the Big Apple; he has been known to live and worked in Oklahoma in recent years.
Despite the rather mysterious circumstances, TMZ reported that there was “nothing suspicious about the death” and that “no drugs were found on the scene.” A toxicology test will likely still be performed as authorities attempt to discover cause of death.
It’s currently unknown whether Cowie had underlying health conditions, but he has previously admitted to having a drinking problem. In fact, the animal lover said in the past that he was “at the end of [his] rope” with his alcoholism before finding Joe.
Sadly, it appears the reality star was struggling with alcohol abuse as recent as earlier this year: just a few months ago, Erik was arrested for driving under the influence in Oklahoma following a car accident. He pleaded guilty and was expected to be sentenced, but he failed to show up to court, causing a judge to issue an arrest warrant. Officials had been stumped as to where the late zookeeper fled to, but now we know he somehow ended up in NYC.
Cowie gained notoriety for his appearance on the mega-popular Netflix docu-series. He was one of Joe’s longtime animal caretakers, and was often referred to as the head keeper of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (formerly Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Memorial Park)’s big cats. Although the two worked together for years, Erik eventually chose the cats over Mr. Exotic; he testified against Joe for abusing and killing some of his zoo animals, which led to the disgraced animal wrangler’s conviction.
Erik even stayed on as caretaker after Exotic’s (real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage) conviction for attempting to hire someone to kill rival Carole Baskin — who took over ownership of the G.W. Zoo from Jeff Lowe in May 2020. She eventually decided to sell the property, promising it would never become an exotic zoo again.
During the reunion special for Tiger King, Cowie doubled down that he’s “here for the cats,” not for the drama. He also noted that he thinks Exotic will die in prison, where he belongs. He added:
Our hearts go out to his loved ones as officials continue to determine his cause of death.
[Image via Netflix/YouTube]