SPEARFISH | A Lawrence County deputy shot a tiger at the Spirit of the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary after it bit an employee and escaped from its enclosure.

A news release from the sheriff's office says an employee of the sanctuary called 911 just before 11:30 p.m. Monday to report a tiger on the loose. 

When deputies arrived, they found one sanctuary employee had been bitten several times by the tiger. The deputies found the employee and put him in a vehicle to remove him from further harm.

Deputies then found the tiger, which had escaped its enclosure through an open gate, according to the release. When it tried to escape, a deputy shot it. 

It was not immediately clear which tiger was shot, or if it survived.

The employee who was bitten was transported to Spearfish Regional Hospital for treatment. 

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Spirit of the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary is on Tinton Road, southwest of Spearfish in Lawrence County. According to its website, it is a "non-breeding animal" rescue for abandoned and surrendered animals.

It houses 320 animals of 40 different species, including bears; big cats, like African lions, mountain lions and tigers; and wild dogs, like wolf-hybrid dogs and coyotes.

Law enforcement and sanctuary staff members conducted a search to make sure all animals were accounted for and that enclosures were secure. 

Officials from the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department, the Spearfish Police Department and Spearfish Ambulance Service also responded. 

The incident is under investigation by the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office. Calls to the sheriff's office and Spirit of the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary were not late returned Tuesday.

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