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Woman says she distracted jaguar during attack at Arizona zoo

PHOENIX — A woman on a trip to an Arizona zoo with her son and grandchildren reacted swiftly when a jaguar attacked another visitor who had crossed a barrier to take a selfie with the wild animal.

Michele Flores said Monday she grabbed a water bottle from a stroller and put it through an enclosure, distracting the jaguar.

The cat took one paw from the woman in the enclosure, but the other got stuck in her sleeve until Flores’ son helped pull her to safety.

The jaguar then grabbed the bottle and walked away.

“If it’s my own kids I would have frozen scared to death but since it wasn’t, it was OK, I knew I had to try something,” Flores said.

Flores’ son Adam Wilkerson later took widely circulated video showing the injured woman on the ground with deep gashes and blood, writhing in pain. Wilkerson said he heard screams for help and didn’t think when he ran to help the woman.

The attack occurred Saturday at Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park, a privately owned facility outside Phoenix.

The woman suffered deep cuts and was recovering. She has not been identified.

The zoo has said the jaguar never left its enclosure and won’t be euthanized.

A spokeswoman said the injured visitor had returned to the facility and said she felt bad about the publicity it was getting. The zoo issued a statement Monday on Twitter thanking people who supported the company for not euthanizing the jaguar.

“The person involved met privately with zoo officials to acknowledge her regret for her role in the past weekend’s event,” said the statement, which wasn’t attributed to a specific person.

The zoo is home to 600 exotic and endangered species, with a total of 6,000 animals, including leopards, lions, white tigers and ocelots.

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