Erik Cowie, ‘Tiger King’ Zookeeper, Dies at 53

by Kati Michelle

“Tiger King” took the streaming world by storm with its Netflix release back in March of 2020. Between the zany cast, hitmen plots, and allegations of murder, fans didn’t know what to expect from episode to episode. It’s hard to believe it was all a documentary and rooted in cold, hard facts.

Between Joe Exotic’s recent cancer diagnosis, and Jeff Lowe’s recent life flight, tragedy continues to surround the cast and crew. In the latest turn of events, someone found zookeeper Erik Cowie’s body in a New York bedroom. Experts pronounced the former “Tiger King” star dead at the scene.

Who Was “Tiger King’s” Erik Cowie?

Typically seen with dad sunglasses and long, blonde hair, Cowie often resembled a California surfer. Erik Cowie also found a spot as one of Joe Exotic’s top “Tiger King” zookeepers. Actually, many refer to Cowie as the head keeper of the big cats for all of his service. Cowie really believed in his work and even stuck around the Zoo long after Joe ended up in the slammer.

Like many of the cast, Cowie shared a tumultuous relationship with owner Joe Exotic. Cowie even testified against Joe in court for his mistreatment of the animals. Cowie witnessed Joe order the shooting and death of multiple zoo animals during his employment. His testimony along with several others corroborated severe animal abuse and neglect. This ultimately landed Joe in prison, where he remains today. The “Tiger King” himself was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison after being convicted of trying to hire a hit on animal rights activist and rival, Carole Baskin.

On Friday night, a friend found Erik Cowie face down in a bedroom. It’s unclear what the star was doing so far from his Oklahoma home. As of now, not much has been released about what led up to Cowie’s death. However, experts ruled out drugs at the scene and foul play. Still, a pending toxicology report might change things.

The star does have a DUI record and previously openly discussed a drinking problem. He found Joe while he was self-proclaimed “at the end of [his] rope.” This in combination with his sometimes ragged appearance and missing teeth led some fans to speculate about a drug addiction– specifically, involving meth. Still, Erik Cowie remained adamant that this was never the case.

Cowie’s Chompers

Following filming of the series and Exotic’s new role as an inmate, the zoo’s ownership moved to couple Jeff and Lauren Lowe. To thank Erik for his service, the pair flew him out to get a dental makeover. TMZ shared a video of the star undergoing the dental procedure that left him with a brand new, sparkling set of teeth. Now looking back, the photos are heartbreaking. They show Erik beaming from ear to ear, showing off the new chompers. The star can be remembered in terms of this bubbly personality.

You can see for yourself here.