Tag Archives: wild animals

Wild Animal Encounters of the Sordid Las Vegas Kind

Karl Mitchell has wild urges that include wild animals and celebrities alike. Having a tumultuous animal training career spanning 16 years, Mitchell was sent to prison five years ago, and some thought that would be the end of his troubles with animals. 

But while searching for her new BFF, reality TV star Paris Hilton required contestants to pet a live tiger at the home of Wayne Newton. The tiger came from Pahrump, Nevada, one of five owned by the animal trainer. 

What Hilton probably doesn’t know is that Mitchell is now using her name and likeness to promote his business, Big Cat Encounters.   His website entices tourists to visit his “tiger reserve,” described as five acres of grassland, almost like a zoo, where tigers roam free and where paying customers can pet, photograph, and even swim with the large carnivores.

World-renowned animal expert?  Many respond with an emphatic no. 

“I’m always appalled whenever Karl Mitchell has anything with a heartbeat because of his history of neglect and abuse,” said animal activist Linda Faso.

Faso has shadowed Karl Mitchell ever since he first moved to Nye County in Nevada with his cats. Her concerns prompted a local news investigation back in 1996, which found horrible conditions at Mitchell’s previous animal compound — tiny cages, rotten food, flies, feces, and lack of water. 

The USDA came in and cited Mitchell for 45 separate violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Mitchell didn’t miss a beat. “Someone like him who doesn’t respect laws at all is going to do what he wants to do,” said Faso. 

Since arriving in Pahrump in the early 90’s, Mitchell has been arrested more than a dozen times and his arrest record in California stretches back even further. He was busted for trying to drive over two fish and game wardens who were chasing him. California officials describe Mitchell as a threat to both humans and animals. 

Stylist Katie Taylor witnessed how Mitchell treated a chimp during a TV taping for Super Dave Osborne at the Rio hotel. “He started beating this chimpanzee. We were like, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘That’s how I get him to do what I want him to do — beat him in the back.’ Punching the monkey in the back, he was just a jerk,” she said.

 Mitchell lost one batch of big cats in 2005 while he was doing a two-year stretch in prison for grand theft, but now he has a new collection in the backyard of a rented house. He sells tours even though his exhibitor’s license was permanently revoked in 2001. “He didn’t seem concerned about not having one,” said Pahrump Valley Times reporter Mark Waite. 

But the story came to the attention of the USDA, which has sent inspectors to Mitchell’s place three times in recent months. A formal complaint shows the government plans to come after Mitchell once again.   

Faso worries it might come too late. Every time Mitchell conducts one of his tours, she says, he puts visitors at risk. As Roy Horn knows, tigers are unpredictable. “It is an accident waiting to happen. It’s just a matter of time,” she said. 

The idea that tigers can get out of control isn’t an idle concern. Mitchell’s former neighbors say his tigers and lions got out of their compound several times and were running free. In 2002, Mitchell shot and killed one of his tigers that got loose during a move. Two years later, one of his cats bit the finger off of Mitchell’s girlfriend at the time.

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Tiger Roams Footloose & Fancy Free in Las Vegas

A tiger was found wandering around aimlessly in a backyard in a far northwest Las Vegas neighborhood last Thursday evening.   Weighing in at more than 400 pounds, “Picasso,” a white tiger, is apparently just another part of the magic show for the Fercos Brother’s Untamed Illusions.   

“He’s probably the best tiger in the world,” said Tony Fercos. 

But Thursday evening it was the bright lights of Metro Police that lit up the night’s sky near the magician’s property after a caller reported a tiger on the loose. “I am really concerned about all the kids in the neighborhood. That’s what I am concerned about,” said a neighbor. 

The owners eventually cornered it and took it back to its cage. The owner’s are part of a magic show that tour the world and they say the escape was one big accident. 

Fercos says he was walking the tiger as part it’s recovery from a recent surgery. “He saw the rabbit jumping and he started to run after the rabbit. I fell and I lost the leash,” he said. 

Code enforcement wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the investigation by Las Vegas Animal Control, but they did say the family does have all the necessary paperwork to house exotic animals. “This incident has been taken care of at this point and we are fairly sure that it’s going to be resolved,” said Joe Boteilho with Clark County Code Enforcement. 

Some residents are ok with the neighbors from the animal kingdom. “They are pinned up and things like that happened. They seem pretty tamed,” said neighbor Mike Truxel. 

Others still remain hesitant. “I kind of want them to have control of their animals at all times,” said a neighbor. 

Fercos says walking his big cat alone at night is one mistake he won’t make again anytime soon. “We are going to keep them only in the perimeter fence. I got my lesson,” he said. 

Fercos says he will have to continue walking Picasso regularly as part of the tiger’s recovery, but he is assuring neighbors it will only happen behind the gates of his home.

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