Roy, a member of the Siegfried and Roy animal show in Las Vegas, found that out the hard way. Roy did about 30,000 shows with his white tigers, most of which he and Siegfried had raised from cubs. They worked with the animals, hand fed them, played with them and never had a problem until a white tiger named Montecore put him in the hospital with life-threatening injuries sustained during a show.
Another prime example is Dawn Brancheau, who trained (and loved) her killer whales. She worked with them for years at Sea World in Florida, but one day a five-ton orca she knew well turned on her for no apparent reason. She died of multiple traumatic injuries and drowning.
Then there was Kelly Ann Walz, who kept a black bear for nine years as a pet. She was cleaning its cage one day when it attacked and left her dead. A trainer who raised a grizzly bear from cubhood had the animal in many a commercial and movie sequence. We've all seen that huge bear selling various products, and the trainer never had a problem until one day when it was feeling grouchy or whatever, it killed him.
We all love chimpanzees, primates whose antics make us laugh. Tarzan had a chimp named Cheetah for comic relief, and even the Little Rascals and Three Stooges had skits with the animals. But did you ever notice that the chimpanzees used were always small and immature ones? An adult chimp is amazingly strong and can be moody. You might remember reading fairly recently about a woman who had an adult chimp for a pet and it turned on a visiting friend, ripping off her eyelids, lips and both hands.
There are innumerable other incidents when wild animals went bad. I remember well the stripper who kept a 10-foot boa for her nightclub act and often wrapped it around her neck while she danced. It was docile for years until one night it decided to bite her, then tightened up around her neck and choked her thoroughly. It took two men to pull the reptile loose.
I had a similar experience with an unusually large garter snake that I used in my biology class demonstrations. I picked it up casually probably a hundred times, then on 101, it bit me and swallowed my thumb down to the knuckle.
Some people are lucky and get away with doing dumb or unknowing stunts. I saw a sow black bear with two cubs stop traffic in Yellowstone Park when she sat along the road and begged for doughnuts and other food. One idiot got out of his car and put his young son on the sow's back for a photo. He actually got away with it. But others aren't so lucky.
I was horseback riding in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in northwest North Dakota one time when the rancher I was riding with pointed out a spot where a Frenchman from Paris saw an old buffalo bull in a bottom, jumped out of his rental car and ran down to take a closeup picture. "We put him in five body bags" the rancher said.
There's a simple moral to this story: Wild animals are not Gentle Ben, Flipper and Chip and Dale. They can hurt you and will if you treat them like Hollywood pets on a movie set. Leave them alone, keep your distance and remember they're wild, no matter how tame they seem.
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