BY: BILL HUTCHINSON and BENJAMIN STEIN, ABC News
(FORT MYERS, Fla.) — Simultaneous hunts were launched for a tiger spotted by a deputy sheriff roaming around an industrial park in Knoxville, Tennesee, Wednesday night and an alligator that attacked a woman on Thursday in Fort Myers, Florida, officials said.
The back-to-back unrelated wildlife all-points bulletins were issued within 14 hours of each other sending shockwaves through both communities that are nearly 800 miles apart.
And on Thursday afternoon, the director of the Tennessee Humane Society of the United States said a pet wallaby had escaped and was running amuck in Washington County, Tennessee.
In Fort Myers, authorities said they captured what they suspect is the alligator that attacked a 27-year-old woman on Thursday morning as she was working near a lake.
The woman, whose name was not released, was bitten in both her legs and was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers, where she was in stable condition Thursday afternoon.
The gator attacked the woman as she was trimming trees near the edge of a lake around 9:15 a.m., according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission which led the search for the alligator.
A nuisance alligator trapper was dispatched to the scene of the attack and helped capture the animal Thursday afternoon, officials said.
“Serious injuries caused by alligators are rare in Florida,” FWC officials said in a statement.
The attack comes less than four months after a 14-year-old boy walking near a pond in Charlotte County, Florida, was attacked and injured by a 10-foot alligator.
The last fatal alligator attack in Florida occurred in 2018 when a 47-year-old woman was killed by a 12-foot alligator in Davie while she was walking her two dogs near her home in the Silver Lakes Rotary Nature Park, officials said.
Meanwhile in Knoxville, a search was continuing for a tiger that was spotted by a Knox County Sheriff’s Deputy around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the River Industrial Park in East Knoxville, authorities told ABC News on Thursday.
The Sheriff’s department said it remains unclear where the tiger came from.
The Knoxville Zoo reported that all its tigers were accounted for.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency organized a search party of 15 to 20 people and were scouring the area of the industrial park for the big cat, officials said.
A sheriff’s deputy reported that he saw the animal emerge from the French Broad River near the industrial park and scamper off into a wooded area, officials said. The deputy estimated the tiger weighed between 150 to 200 pounds, officials said.
“After a brief moment of shock, he realized it really was a tiger,” Kimberly Glenn, a Knox County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman, told the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Matthew Cameron, a spokesman for the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, told ABC News in an email that a second sighting of the tiger was reported Thursday afternoon a couple of miles from where sheriff’s deputy saw the animal.
“A wildlife officer is patrolling the area looking for the animal,” Cameron said. “We would ask that area residents check their surveillance footage to see if it might contain any images and for the public to be on the lookout. If the animal is observed, do not approach it but document it and report it to the Knox County Sheriff‘s office.”
Staff members from Tiger Haven, a big cat sanctuary in Kingston, Tennessee, about 35 miles west of Knoxville, were assisting in the search for the animal, Glenn said.
“If anyone has any information on a missing Tiger or locates the Tiger, please contact the Knox County Sheriff’s Office,” the agency said in a statement.
In addition to the tiger, a pet wallaby was reported running wild in Washington County, Tennesee, on Thursday, according to Eric Swafford, the Tennessee senior state director at the Humane Society of the United States.
Swafford added that the two incidents indicate that “Tennessee has a serious, dangerous exotic pet problem.”
He said the escaped wallaby, which is similar to a kangaroo but smaller, is at risk of being hit by a vehicle or attacked by dogs or other animals.
Swafford said that since 1992, there have been at least two dozen episodes in Tennessee of dangerous exotic animals escaping from their owners.
“Locals have encountered and been attacked by pet monkeys; a teenager was hospitalized with an illness from a kinkajou bite; and deadly constrictor snakes have escaped,” Swafford said in a statement. “Most people lack the knowledge and resources required to securely and humanely contain and provide proper care to wild animals who suffer greatly in the exotic pet trade. We urge officials to strengthen the state’s captive wild animal laws and help put an end to the exotic pet trade.”
ABC News’ Rachel Katz and Matthew Stone contributed to this report.
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