Erik Cowie – the 53-year-old zookeeper who gained fame after appearing on Netflix's 2020 true crime documentary, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness – has died.
According to law enforcement officials, Cowie's body was found by a friend on Friday inside the bedroom of a New York City residence.
It is unclear to whom the room/apartment belong, but the late zookeeper was a long way from Oklahoma, where he had lived and worked in recent years.
At this time, his cause of death is not yet known, but law enforcement officials do not believe there is anything suspicious surrounding the circumstances.
Though they did not find any drugs or drug paraphernalia at the scene, a toxicology test would be able to determine whether the late zookeeper had anything in his system that could have contributed to his unexpected passing.
It is not known whether Cowie had underlying health conditions.
Earlier this year, Erik was arrested for driving under the influence in his home state following a car accident. He pleaded guilty and was expected to be sentenced shortly thereafter; however, he failed to show up to court, prompting the judge to issue an arrest warrant.
It was unclear where he had gone, but he managed to end up in The Big Apple.
Cowie was best known for being one of Joe Exotic's longtime animal caretakers, often referenced as the head keeper of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (formerly Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Memorial Park)'s big cats.
Erik's love for the animals outweighed his allegiance to Joe, and he stuck around to work at the zoo even after the embattled animal tamer was sentenced to prison.
In fact, Cowie even testified against Exotic during the latter's highly publicized trial, claiming he had witnessed Joe order several of his own animals to be shot and killed.
Joe – real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage – is currently serving 22 years in a federal medical prison in Fort Worth, Texas, for trying to hire two different hitmen to kill who he believed to be his biggest business rival, self-proclaimed animal rights activist Carole Baskin.