7th big cat dies at Texas animal refuge from virus

WYLIE, Texas (AP) — A tiger described as the “soul” of a North Texas animal sanctuary has become the seventh big cat to die from an outbreak of a fatal virus.

A spokeswoman for In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue and Education Center in the Dallas suburb of Wylie said Tacoma died Sunday night. Lisa Williams says Tacoma, a 13-year-old who weighed in excess of 400 pounds (180 kilograms), is the sixth tiger killed by canine distemper. A lioness also has died.

More than a dozen other big cats are still suffering from the virus. Experts believe raccoons likely started the outbreak by crawling around the large outdoor cages.

Williams says the death of Tacoma is particularly difficult because he had been with the sanctuary for more than a dozen years.

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