Steven Trew, Everglades Wonder Gardens: Man cut locks and set animals free, zoo employees say

LEE COUNTY - Associated Press

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) -- A Bonita Springs man, Steven Trew, frustrated that the Everglades Wonder Gardens will soon close, broke into the zoo sometime early Monday morning, cut the locks on almost every cage and set many animals free, according to employees at the gardens.

One deer was killed on Imperial Parkway, one deer is missing, but the rest of the creatures never left the zoo property and were returned to their cages by zoo staff.

Employee Jack Wollman arrived at the Everglades Wonder Gardens at 5 a.m. Monday and found the back gate sawed open. When he got inside he noticed deer, pigs and birds were out of their cages.

"Luckily none of the dangerous animals got out," Wollman said. "The mountain lion cage was wide open, but she never left."

Wollman called owner David Piper and then went to investigate.

"It was pitch black," Wollman said. "Then I heard the flamingos and when you hear flamingos you know someone is there. I saw a guy by the barn area and chased him to the parking lot. "He tried to take off on his bike. When I got near him he started swinging at me. I wasn't going to let him get away. I just tackled him."

Wollman held the suspect, 58-year-old Steven Trew, until deputies from the Lee County Sheriff's office arrived. Trew has been arrested by the Lee County Sheriff's Office and charged with burglary of a dwelling and damage to property with criminal mischief.

"He heard we were closing and he wanted to set the animals free," Wollman said. "What kind of an idiot would let a mountain lion out right in the middle of Bonita Springs?"

Piper is closing the Everglades Wonder Gardens on April 21. He is now living in Georgia, but was in town to meet with prospective buyers.

"He kicked open all the perimeter gates," Piper said. "Animals will run the fences until they find an opening. We had birds out and deer out and a wild boar hog and sow. We had to corral them all back in. Thank God the mountain lion and the bobcat didn't come out."

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