Police are investigating a string of biting incidents involving a zebra on a private farm in rural Seymour, Tenn.
Four people in their 20s have been treated for zebra bites at Seymour-area medical facilities since June 21, according to the Blount County Sheriff’s Office. The incidents have all been traced back to a single animal at Brookhaven Animal Farm, a privately-owned property with fenced-in areas for exotic animals.
Michaela Napier says she approached the zebra for a selfie with her boyfriend’s baby because she’d seen others do the same.
“I’ve seen a lot of people go and pet the zebra and feed the animals and take pictures with them,” she told local news station WBIR.
Napier says she was posing in front of the zebra’s pen with the baby when she was attacked.
“I got in position and I was smiling for the picture and I just felt… a huge impact on my back,” she said. Napier says the zebra picked her up in its mouth and slammed her down three times.
“The only thing that I could think of was, ‘This is how I’m going to die,'” she said. ” I really thought it was going to kill me.”
She says the zebra let her go after a friend punched it in the nose. The baby was not injured.
“Thank god it was me, and not that little girl,” Napier said.
Napier and her friends contacted 911 about the incident. She was treated in hospital and released later that day after receiving a tetanus shot and a prescription for some antibiotics.
A man was bitten on the hand and two other women were bitten on the arm in separate incidents, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.
The farm’s owner, Bobby White, told the Maryland Daily Times that all of his animals are kept behind fences on private property.
The paper reports that several people have petted the zebra without incident. However, the animal has also snapped at a few individuals.
Some species of zebra can weigh up to 400 kilograms. The animals aren’t normally aggressive, but there have been violent human-zebra interactions in the past. In 2017, for instance, an angry zebra latched onto a zookeeper’s arm and dragged him along the ground in China.
READ MORE: Zebra attacks National Zoo staffer in 2013
White’s neighbours, Eric and Alice Morrison, said they’ve never had any problems with his animals in the 15 years they’ve lived nearby. However, they also pointed out that White’s zebra is not used to petting-zoo conditions.
“It’s not a domesticated animal,” Eric Morrison told the Daily Times. “People just think for whatever reason, because it’s out there and it’s accessible, that they can go and pet it or take a picture and get close when they ought to treat it with respect.”
White appears to have posted a sign warning people away since the July 2 incident with Napier.
“Attention: please do not pet or feed the animals,” the sign says. “Keep back from fences.”
—With files from The Associated Press