By Miriam Raftery
October 28, 2020 (Alpine) – A popular tiger named Maverick died this week in a tragic accident at the Lions, Tigers and Bears (LTB) facility in Alpine. Moka, another tiger, was accidentally let into the same habitat, fatally injuring Maverick.
Maverick came to the facility in 2014 at nine months of age after being rescued from the exotic animal trade and an owner who had acquired him illegally. Moka was rescued by Border Patrol agents and came to Lions, Tigers and Bears in 2018.
In a letter to supporters, LTB owner Bobbi Brinks voiced sadness at the loss and provided the following explanation:
We have news that has devastated me and our family of keepers, staff, and volunteers.
We are full of sorrow to share that Maverick the tiger died yesterday.
A terrible accident occurred that allowed our tigers Maverick and Moka, who live separately, to come into contact with one another in the same habitat, and ultimately ended tragically in Maverick’s death. Our veterinarian came immediately to assess both tigers, and Moka has a few scratches, but is otherwise fine. No staff were injured or at risk during this incident. This was a human error, and one we’re so deeply heartbroken about.
The process of caring for a wild animal leaves no room for error. When caring for a 400+ pound apex predator, layered safety measures must be established, and this is exactly what we’ve implemented at our accredited sanctuary since our founding. Unfortunately, one of our safety measures was mistakenly missed, and because these magnificent, massive animals are wild, their reactions to their surroundings—especially new situations—are unpredictable.
We regularly do safety trainings, including one on our emergency protocols just last weekend. These will be reviewed extensively this week as there can never be too much training when working with exotic animals. There is an inherent risk when keeping apex predators in captivity, and we would like nothing more than to see an end to this, but until then, and as long as our sanctuary is needed, we will continue to be there for these animals in need.
Maverick was rescued on April 20, 2014 at the estimated age of nine months. He was a victim of the exotic animal trade, born in captivity and purchased illegally by someone who did not have the proper licensing to own an exotic animal. California Fish & Wildlife seized Maverick and reached out to Lions Tigers & Bears to provide him with a lifetime home. We happily opened our sanctuary to the rambunctious young tiger, and over the years watched him grow into the happy-go-lucky tiger who settled into a fulfilled life at our sanctuary—splashing in his pool, rolling around in the lush, green grass, and enjoying feeding time with his keepers and visitors.
I remember the day I got the call from Fish & Wildlife asking me to come pick up a tiger that was being kept at a local animal shelter in Ventura County. It was Easter Sunday, and my husband Mark’s birthday. We had just finished dinner and were watching Top Gun, and I got the call. We immediately dropped everything, loaded up the rescue hauler and headed north to retrieve the young tiger. Upon arrival, there he was—a 65-pound, stalky tiger with a bubble gum pink nose, sitting frightened in the shelter. On the drive back to the sanctuary, we were thinking of a name, and Mark suggested “Maverick.” Over the next six years, Maverick lived up to his name in full glory—blossoming into the mighty, independent, and well-adjusted tiger who has left an indelible paw print on my heart, and I’m sure many of yours too.
During his time at Lions Tigers & Bears, Maverick spent time in his favorite habitat, Tiger Trails, greeting our guests, staff and volunteers as they entered the sanctuary. He might have even followed beside you as you walked in, a favorite pastime of his. He was quite playful and was known to jump in his pool and splash anyone nearby.
However, Maverick didn’t always have an affinity for water. In fact, he was one of the only tigers I had ever come across in my 25+ years of experience that was afraid of water! When Maverick was first introduced into Tiger Trails, with its mighty waterfall and crystal-clear plunge pool, he was actually afraid. It took several introductions in the habitat before he would even get close to the water's edge. Finally, one hot summer day, after weeks of coaxing, Maverick dipped his paws into the cool pool for the first time and realizing how refreshing it was—he made the plunge. After that day, Maverick’s hesitation was no more, and he splashed and swam to his heart’s content.
That’s what our sanctuary is all about—providing the best possible environment for these captive animals who, although we know should be in the wild, would have no chance of survival, and have nowhere left to turn.
We will miss his rambunctious, energetic presence, but are so grateful for the years we had with our majestic, sweet Maverick.
Maverick, we will miss your friendly chuffs and curious, fun-loving spirit. Rest easy our sweet boy, run free, and keep on swimming.
Thank you all for your support – you have played a part in providing a quality life and care for Maverick. Please join us in honoring Maverick today by sharing a favorite photo or memory on Facebook or Instagram.
Founder & Director, Lions Tigers & Bears