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Oregon’s ‘tiger king’ became Idaho's problem

By Finn J.D. John
October 1, 2023

ON THE EVENING of Sept. 28, 1995, Woney and Laurie Peters, of Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, were driving back to their home behind the local elementary school when they noticed something wasn’t right.

The first thing Woney noticed was the horses. They were confined in a corral in front of the house, next to the trampoline, which his teenage kids were playing on. The kids seemed fine — but the horses seemed terrified. They kept staring up at the hillside that ran along behind the house and the school.

Portneuf Valley Brewing’s Ligertown Lager beer label as shown on a T-shirt sold for Portneuf by Idaho Beer Gear. (Image:

Inside the house, Woney got up on the balcony for a better view of what was bothering the horses. In the distance, on the hillside, he saw something — “a two-tone animal going through the trees,” he recounted, in an interview with Idaho Public Broadcasting. “And I told Laurie, I said, ‘That’s — there’s an African lion in our back yard.”

Laurie got on the phone and called 911. Woney got his hunting rifle out and started glassing the slope with his scope, looking for the 400-pound monster cat.

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This screen grab from Idaho Public Broadcasting’s Idaho Experience eposide on the Ligertown story shows two lions perched atop the shantytown-like roof structure of Ligertown watching over authorities as they work to secure the compound after 17 lions escaped into the community. (Image: Idaho Public Broadcasting)

“And then it stepped out from behind a dead cedar tree,” Woney said. “And he was looking straight at me and I was looking straight at him. And we were just eye to eye and probably seemed like forever, but it was probably five minutes we eyeballed each other, and it was getting so dark — I told Laurie to tell 911 that I have to take the shot.”

Woney took the shot. The lion raced away up the hillside out of view, then tumbled back down into view again — dead.

And thus ended the final episode in a drama that had started near Newport, Oregon, nearly 30 years earlier, and that today evokes memories of Tiger King, the Netflix series about rogue zookeeper Joe Exotic. You could think of it as the “season finale” of what was basically a three-season show....

This article is still under its initial two-month embargo, during which participating newspapers have exclusive rights to it. Shortly after the embargo ends, the rest of this article will appear here!

In the meantime, you can probably find it published on the Website of one of our member newspapers or community radio stations. Thanks for your patience, and thanks for supporting your community newspapers and radio stations!


Background image: Cronemiller Lake, near Adair Village, on an early spring day. (Photo by F.J.D. John)
©2008-2023 by Finn J.D. John. Copyright assertion does not apply to assets that are in the public domain or are used by permission.