Is a tiger sighting by law enforcement the same as seeing the black dog for truckers?

September 15, 2020

Wendy Parker


We all make mistakes. Especially when we’re tired. It’s a pretty significant issue the FMCSA spends a whole lot of time gnawing on like a rancid ol’ bone. Kinda like something a tiger might drag up out of the kudzu around the French Broad River to snack on near an industrial park in Knoxville, Tenn.

Wait. Wut? How’s that again?

It’s like this.

Deputy Andy Wilson of the Knox County Sheriff’s Department was working a side job at a business in the Forks of the River Industrial Park when he reported seeing a large cat rise out of the French Broad River.

He watched the tiger cross the street and disappear into a dense wooded area, according to information Knox County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Kimberly Glenn gave to local news agencies.

(So maybe the rancid bone was an overstatement, but I needed a segue.)

That was last Wednesday (Sept. 9) evening. By Thursday morning, Tennessee Wildlife Agency had taken over the search. A helicopter and foot search by officials in the area yielded no other tiger sighting. No tigers were missing from the Knoxville Zoo or the local tiger sanctuary, Tiger Haven.

It’s illegal to own a tiger as a pet in Tennessee. State law allows only zoos, circuses and commercial propagators with the proper permit to own a tiger.

Confirmed reports of large cat ownership by the unlicensed are very rare in Tennessee, although the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has removed a few exotic cats from residents who were illegally possessing them in the past.

On Friday afternoon, officials with the agency said there have been no new sightings of the tiger and the trap they set early Thursday morning had been removed due to inactivity. Officials declared the search for the animal no longer active.

By Monday morning, local news outlets reported the sighting might have been a case of mistaken identity.

Tiger experts from Zoo Knoxville weighed in with no disrespect toward the Sheriff’s Department, saying it could easily have been a bobcat mistaken for a juvenile tiger.

Meanwhile, no one in the general vicinity has reported being mauled, folded, spindled or mutilated by a tiger, bobcat, or angry murder hornets.

Well. As far as we know, that is.

There are a couple of things that do bear noting in this Tennessee “Jungle Book” version of “Adventures with Shere Kahn at the French Broad River.”

The first sighting of the “tiger” was reported by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy working a second job. There’s no information regarding his last official shift and LEO’s aren’t’ held to any hours of service rules and regs. We don’t know what this particular situation was, but we do know the officer involved mentioned that he “hadn’t fallen asleep and dreamed it.”

Now obviously, if a tiger saunters up somewhere in Knoxville because there really is a tiger, I’m going to eat some crow and the Tennessee Tiger Twitter feed will finally be verified. But until then, can we just agree that a tired, overworked law enforcement officer might have mistaken a large bobcat for a small tiger?

And maybe, just maybe there should be the same kind of hours-of-service restrictions on law enforcement officers as there are on truck drivers?

Does anyone else think that’s an idea with stripes? Gimme a roar. I’m curious as a cat about what you think and would love to hear your puuurrr-ticular insight on the matter.

Until next time, watch out for the Tennessee Tiger and be safe out there.

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