What Happened to Erik Cowie? How Did He Die?

Out of all the individuals featured in ‘Tiger King,’ Erik Cowie was one of the most well-loved owing to his sheer dedication and passion for the big cats despite the drama within the G.W. Zoo. As the head zookeeper, he was one of Joe Exotic’s most trusted employees, yet he did turn on him when federal authorities came knocking on their front door. After all, rather than the politics and dark workings of the industry, it was the animal abuse he hated the most. So, with season 2 revealing the news of his tragic demise, it’s a blow for everyone.

What Happened to Erik Cowie?

Having found the job at the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park in Oklahoma via Craigslist, Erik Cowie had been working at the facility for around five years by the time Joe Exotic’s actions came to light. Hence, when he stood trial, Erik testified that the Tiger King did shoot animals to make space for new ones and added they had often discussed the pros and cons on the radio beforehand. “I knew what was going on,” Erik said. “I’m [not] stupid. I knew cats were getting shot.”

Despite all that, the zookeeper continued to work at the wildlife park once Jeff and Lauren Lowe officially became the owners, and he even migrated to Thackerville for their new facility. In the follow-up episode of season 1, contrary to popular beliefs, it was also revealed that Erik did not do drugs because he valued his sleep too much. However, the animal lover candidly stated that he’d been addicted to alcohol at one point but has been sober for years. It honestly appeared as if things were going pretty well for Erik, yet that changed in 2021.

In May, Erik was arrested for driving under the influence after getting into a highway car crash. It doesn’t look like anyone was seriously injured, but he’d reportedly drank two beers, so his blood alcohol content was 0.11. He pleaded guilty to the DUI soon after but was a no-show at his sentencing. From there, at around 5:30 pm on September 3, Erik was found lying face down, unresponsive, inside a Brooklyn apartment bedroom at 21 East 55th Street. The officials were called almost immediately, and they pronounced him dead at the scene.

How Did Erik Cowie Die?


According to the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office, in his early 50s, Erik Cowie passed away from acute and chronic alcohol use. As seen above, Jeff and Lauren were amongst the many who paid tribute to Erik on Instagram in September 2021 by writing, “It comes with great sadness to say that a dear friend and hard working employee has passed away. Erik Cowie dedicated every waking moment caring for the animals at GWEAP & Tiger King Park…He absolutely loved all the animals and would show up early to check on each and everyone. He had his Demons but the animals helped bring joy and happiness in his life.”

Read More: Where is Jeff Lowe Now?