A TIGER King star who worked for Joe Exotic died from acute and chronic alcohol use, The Sun can exclusively confirm.
Erik Cowie was found dead lying face down in a bed at an apartment in Brooklyn, New York City, on September 3.
One of his friends made the shocking discovery, it was reported at the time.
The medical examiner has now determined that Cowie’s cause of death was “acute and chronic alcohol use” and that the manner was “natural.”
In the past, Cowie has admitted to having a drinking problem but denied speculation he was a meth addict.
Earlier this year, he ran into legal trouble after being busted for a DUI in Oklahoma following a car accident.
However, he did not show up to his court appearance, which led to an arrest warrant being issued in May.
Cowie was best known for his appearances in Netflix’s Tiger King. He was one of Joe Exotic’s longtime animal caretakers, having worked at his zoo for eight years.
But relations between the pair soured when Exotic was arrested in June 2018 for hiring two different hitmen to kill animal rights activist Carole Baskin and various counts of animal abuse.
The keeper later testified against Exotic at trial, telling the court he’d witnessed him order the executions of a number of zoo animals.
The testimony led to Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, being sentenced to 22 years in federal prison in January 2020.
His infamous tiger park was sold off soon afterward, before being temporarily closed over several violations of the Endangered Species Act.
Cowie told DailyMailTV earlier this year that he witnessed Exotic kill over 100 tigers and claimed many of the big cats actually despised the larger-than-life star.
“Joe only cared about them in a monetary way,” Cowie of the big cats, adding that one lion in particular lion hated Exotic so much it “would try to chew through the cage to get at him.”
“I learned a lot from Joe, mostly on not what to do,” he added.
REGRETS OVER ANIMAL ABUSE
Cowie also claimed Exotic would hit the big cats if they misbehaved.
“For one reason or another, a cub would become unruly so Joe would take the baby cub out of view of the people at the zoo and pop the cub in the nose and bring it back out.
“I then had to deal with a baby cub who had just been popped in the nose and then make sure it wouldn’t act up and bite some older women or child.”
He voiced regret that he didn’t do more to save the animals or uncover the abuse Exotic subjected them to earlier.
“These animals trusted me and I let some of them down, for that I’ll never forget,” he said.
“I love these animals dude. I’d sooner put myself under a bus than leave these animals. These animals are my children. They are the only reason why I’m out here. I’m just a guy who picks up poop with his hands and I’m good at cutting up cows to feed to the tigers.”