Camel Kills Two Men After Escaping Tennessee Petting Zoo

Bobby Matheny was 42 years old.

A camel killed two men after escaping a petting zoo in Tennessee, a county sheriff said.

Officials from the Obion county sheriff’s office said the fatal incident unfolded around 5:44 pm on Thursday when they “received a call of a loose camel near Shirley Farms on South Bluff Road in Obion … attacking people”.

When deputies arrived at the farm, approximately 100 miles from Memphis, they found “two unconscious victims on the ground” and “a camel still on the loose”.

The sheriff’s department and other public safety agencies including the Tennessee highway patrol, Lake county sheriff’s office, Lake county rescue squad, and Ridgely police tried to aid the victims and bring them to a safe location.

The animal remained aggressive. Obion authorities said “the camel attacked an Obion county sheriff’s office vehicle then move[d] towards deputies who were attempting to move a victim to” emergency medical services.

“It was at this time officers had to put the camel down for the safety of everyone on the scene.”

The statement said the two victims, identified as Bobby Matheny and Tommy Gunn, “did succumb to their injuries and were pronounced dead on scene”.

Inspectors from the US Department of Agriculture had noted alleged animal care and regulatory issues at the petting zoo.

In July 2019, an inspector said: “The only access to drinking water for the camels and zebra was a very small shallow muddy creek running through their enclosure. There was no access to any water troughs or other potable water source.”

In October 2018, an inspector said: “The public (adults and children) were petting and feeding animals without any employee/attendant present.”

The inspector also said: “There is a barrier present between the public and the non-human primates but not for any of the other species present including a zebra, camels, llamas, alpacas, goats, sheep, pigs, fallow deer, kangaroo, zebu, rabbits, cavy, and prairie dogs.

“The only attendant noted present at the exhibit was the cashier who does not have a direct line of sight on any of the animals. To prevent injury to the public and the animals and to ensure proper human-animal interactions [and] feeding, an attendant must be present.”

Shirley Farms could not immediately be reached for comment.