Man Cited For Touching Tiger At Denver Zoo

DENVER (CBS4) – A man was cited after he allegedly jumped at and touched a tiger at the Denver Zoo.

“It’s a tiger, you don’t touch tigers, it’s common sense,” said Denver Zoo visitor Josh Moffitt.

The Denver Police Department posted about it to Facebook, saying that “officers were dispatched to the Denver Zoo on a report of a disturbance.”

When the officers arrived, zoo security had already detained Matthew Swearingen for jumping into the tiger exhibit. Police say Swearingen, 34, climbed a barrier fence before jumping into and touching one of the big cats sleeping in the overhead catwalk.

A spokesperson with the Denver Zoo says that it actually happened at their new tiger enclosure, “The Edge,” not the lion exhibit as first reported by the police.

Swearingen was not hurt and the Denver Zoo told CBS4 that he never actually accessed the interior of the exhibit.

Guests to the zoo were disappointed in the man’s behavior.

“I don’t even know how you could get in there. I don’t know how you could do it. There is no way… that is stupid. They can make a quick meal out of a person,” said Denver Zoo visitor Jim Landreth.

The tiger was not hurt.

The zoo said safety officers patrol the area 24 hours a day. The area is also clearly marked with signs and fencing to keep visitors separated from the tigers.

“What the heck? Why would you do that? Are you wanting to get eaten?” asked another zoo visitor.

Denver Zoo Statement:

On March 18, a man climbed a public barrier fence, from the public pathway, of Denver Zoo’s new tiger exhibit, The Edge, and jumped to touch a sleeping tiger in the overhead catwalk. The individual never accessed the exhibit and neither he, nor the tiger, were harmed. The individual was removed by the Denver Police Department and charged with trespassing.

The safety of Denver Zoo’s guests, animals and staff is our top priority and we take these matters very seriously. Clearly identifiable barriers, including signage and fencing, are in place throughout the Zoo and our safety officers are onsite 24 hours a day. In light of this incident, Denver Zoo is currently evaluating this area to determine if anything additional needs to be done to discourage this illegal behavior from happening again.

Trespassing into an exhibit area is a punishable crime under Denver City ordinance and law enforcement is contacted immediately should it occur.

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