Dr. Bhagavan "Doc" Antle tells PEOPLE he hasn't been married in years, though he's had many girlfriends

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Netflix‘s smash-hit docuseries Tiger King has taken the world by storm, leading to a swarm of publicity for “Joe Exotic,” the self-styled “Tiger King,” as well as Carole Baskin, the rival he plotted to kill.

But someone else who figures prominently in the series, Dr. Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, has raised plenty of eyebrows, too.

Antle, a fellow big-cat enthusiast, was a mentor of sorts for Exotic, telling PEOPLE, “I know him and helped him out on numerous projects, trying to get his zoo up to better standards.” He currently owns The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species, (T.I.G.E.R.S.) a wildlife preserve in South Myrtle Beach, where he offers up-close encounters with the exotic animals housed there.

An eccentric character, Antle has referred to multiple women in his life as his “girls,” prompting many observers — both in the docuseries and otherwise — to speculate he has multiple wives.

doc antle

But Antle pushes back against those allegations, deeming them “absurdity” in the new issue of PEOPLE, which hits newsstands Friday.

“I’m not married,” Antle says. “My wife died 25 years ago in a car crash here in Myrtle Beach. I’ve never been married since.”

joe exotic and carole baskin

For more on Netflix’s wild hit docuseries Tiger King, subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday.

However, Antle doesn’t dispute the notion that he has led an active dating life since his wife’s passing. “I certainly have lovely girls that I’ve met in my life who share time and opportunity with me, but they are by no means my wives,” he says.

He also emphasizes that the women in his life “are all 40 to 50 years old — they’re not kids.”

Antle believes the series falsely portrays an impression that he only employs women as staff at his sanctuary. “If you look at the special, it appears that I do not have male help. Why is that? Well, there’s 25 of us here. There [are] 12 men. Where the heck are they in that show?”

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is streaming now on Netflix.