(CNN) -- A tiger mauled a caretaker who was cleaning its cage, clamping the woman's head in its mouth during the attack at an Indiana animal rescue shelter.
The woman is in critical condition after the attack Friday at the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Center Point, Indiana.
The facility confirmed an incident involving an employee and a tiger, but declined to provide specifics, saying it does not want to discuss the incident with the media.
In a statement, the Clay County Sheriff's Office provided more details on the attack.
The victim was cleaning cages when a worker nearby heard her screaming, Sheriff Rob Gambill said in a statement.
When the employee ran over to help, she discovered the tiger had her head in its mouth.
Joe Taft, the director of the facility, sprayed the 18-year-old tiger named Raja in the face with a hose to loosen its grip before it was eventually lured away with food.
The victim, who is in her early twenties, was air-lifted to an Indianapolis hospital.
Authorities said the tiger escaped its holding area because a door was not properly shut.
Taft said the victim had "a fair amount of experience" working with cats and had previously interacted with that very tiger.
It is one of about 130-140 tigers living at the facility.