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Camel kills two after escaping from Tennessee petting zoo

Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images

A rampaging camel that got loose at a petting zoo in Tennessee last week charged and killed two people before being put down by authorities.

The incident took place near Shirley Farms on South Bluff Road in Obion County, Tennessee, when the camel — reportedly a featured animal at the petting zoo — got loose and started attacking people.

In a press release issued Thursday, the Obion County sheriff's office said deputies responded to a call just before 5 p.m. about a loose camel that was demonstrating aggressive behavior.

When deputies and law enforcement officers from a host of other state and local agencies arrived on the scene, they reportedly found two men lying on the ground seemingly unconscious. The camel was still on the loose.

The camel proceeded to attack a sheriff's office vehicle and started moving toward deputies who were rendering aid to one of the victims.

"It was at this time officers had to put the camel down for the safety of everyone on [the] scene," the sheriff's office said in the release.

The two victims, 42-year-old Bobby Matheny of Ridgely and 67-year-old Tommy Gunn of Obion, were pronounced dead on the scene. It was not immediately clear how the animal escaped or why it became so aggressive.

In a phone call with TheBlaze on Tuesday, a representative from Shirley Farms described the tragedy as a "freak accident" but declined to go into any further detail.

In reviews posted on Google, Shirley Farms is described as a "great place to take kids" that offers a pumpkin farm and bounce houses in addition to the petting zoo, where guests can interact with a range of unique animals, including camels and zebras.

Authorities have not released any further information about the camel, including whether it was a male or female. Some experts say the animal's sex could provide more insight into why it attacked.

Bernard Faye, chairman of the International Society of Camelid Research and Development, told the Washington Post in an email on Monday that camels are quiet creatures that usually have good relationships with humans.

But, he said, male camels can become violent during an annual period of sexual activity known as "rutting season," which runs from November to March in the United States.

He added that the aggressive behavior typically is limited to "kicking with their legs, or sometimes biting, but sometimes they run after people and can kill" them by crushing them under the weight.

It remains unclear how the camel, in this case, attacked the victims, since their injuries have not been disclosed.

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