Monthly Archives: February 2015

New habitat for Lucci & Wyoming

Lion habitat concrete

As a working big cat preserve, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in in a constant state of evolution and growth, adding and improving everything we do to best help the animals we rescue.

One such project the past several months has been a total revamping of the habitat where lions Lucci and Wyoming live.

“This is actually the first habitat we built, back in 1998,” says TCWR Curator Emily McCormack. “We always do the best we can with the materials available, but of course over time we have improved, so we basically replaced the whole habitat, one piece at a time.”

McCormack says they were able to use one of the night houses from the existing habitat, to give the lions a place to sleep while they replaced their night house with a new one.

She says the new habitat is actually a little bigger than it was before. “It’s right at 6,000 sq. ft.,” she says. “In anticipation of changing USDA safety guidelines, we’ve been increasing the height of our fences whenever we get the chance. So the new fences are 12 ft. tall with a 3 ft. jump guard.”

Almost all work here requires some landscaping. “It’s incredible how un-level the ground is around here, even though it looks flat, once you start having to haul in dirt and pour concrete,” McCormack says. “But we did it. We’ve reframed everything and poured the concrete and except for welding a couple of wire panels in place, those boys are good to go.”

Although a few big cats still reside in the compound area, the goal is to put all of them in grassy habitats as soon as possible.

“We’re always working on raising funds to add habitats,” McCormack says. “Our donors have made that possible.”

For information on how to donate to the TCWR habitat fund, please go to https://www.turpentinecreek.org/support/habitat-funding.

 

Visitor books evoke laughter, tears

childs writing

Many many people have stayed overnight at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in our lodging facilities over the years, enjoying the night sounds of the big cats and extending their visit beyond a simple tour.

Each room here has a guest book, in which visitors write where they’re from and what they thought of their visit. The messages are generally positive and heartwarming, showing people understand and appreciate TCWR’s mission of caring for neglected and abused exotic big cats.

Sometimes, though, they’re just plain funny, especially the comments by the kids.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Africa to be up close and personal with big cats, but this place is better because they can’t come eat me.” ~ Bailey Bishop

“We have had a great time. The goat is pregnant.” ~ Elise & Audrey, Dallas (In fact, Jello the goat is male.)

“Very nice room. The animals were very active at night. My mom got peed on by a tiger (ha, ha).” ~ Max & Jarrett

The grown-ups have their moments as well.

“This is such an amazing place. Sorry about the midnight ‘mouse in the house call.’ They scare me more than tigers!”    ~ Kari Fischer

Not everyone who visits is simply on holiday.

“We came here from San Lorenzo, Calif., to visit our son Kyle who has interned here for three sessions. It rained and thundered all night, which was great. To sleep and hear the lions roaring and the coyote howling and the lightning and thunder was great. Now we understand why Kyle loves it here so much.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       ~ Nils & Kathy Jorgensen

For some people it’s a reunion.

“Our cats are Shelby and Sasha. We had to give them up after 14 years of ownership due to insurance. This is our first visit to see them since they left us in November. We are truly happy they are in the great hands of Turpentine Creek. The owners have a special place in our hearts since they have taken them in when we had no way to afford the insurance it took to keep them. Thank you.”     ~ Guy, Heather, Zack, Zoey and Darby Robertson, Stephenville, Tx.

For most people, of course, staying overnight at Turpentine Creek is simply a great vacation, a chance to enjoy the natural surroundings and the beautiful animals.

“Only an overnight stay on this, our third trip to Turpentine Creek in a year. As I write this, the sun has set and the stars are twinkling. The crickets and cicadas add to the symphony of lions roaring and tigers chuffing, and Bam Bam the bear keeping time banging on his blue plastic barrel.

“We couldn’t believe the millions of start in the sky out here, with the Milky Way streaking northeast to southwest. We thought we’d seen start before…but God certainly packs the sky when you escape the city!”       ~ Roy & Lori Wilson, Independence, Mo.

“We came to celebrate our honeymoon, first anniversary, and Valentine’s Day all at the same time. We didn’t even to want to leave to go to town to eat. Now we don’t want to go home.”   ~ Nancy & Victor Allioine, Ozark, Mo.

And finally this one:

“The past year and a half I have gone through cancer surgery, chemo, and a broken leg! This was my trip to celebrate getting through it all and I chose the PERFECT getaway!”   ~ Patsy Baltz, Melbourne, Ark.

Throughout all these entries runs one thread: A love of Turpentine Creek and what we do. Poignant or whimsical, the words of our visitors reflect not only their appreciation of our mission, rescuing exotic big cats, but that Turpentine Creek is a refuge for them as well, a place to relax and enjoy nature and the very special environment we have created here.

For information on lodging at TCWR, please go to https://www.turpentinecreek.org/lodging-2 or call (479) 253-5841.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No snow day for big cats, caretakers

lion snow

For many people, a snow day means no school, no work – an involuntary holiday where all you can do is stay in by the fire and listen for the snow plow to go by. At Turpentine Creek Wildlife Preserve, however, a snow like the one that just hit over the weekend means exactly the opposite.

“Our new group of interns just spent two weeks training, and now, on their second day, it snows and everything’s topsy-turvy,” says TCWR Curator Emily McCormack. “You can’t wash out the concrete areas obviously when they’re covered with snow, but if you don’t clear it out, the cats walk on it and pack it down, and it turns to ice, then they slip trying to get around. So the interns chip it out or shovel it out or whatever’s necessary. That pretty white snow doesn’t stay pretty and white for very long. Plus they have to break up the ice on the water dishes several times daily when it’s like this.”

Fortunately, tigers enjoy snow and cold weather. The more sensitive cats, like the lions, which come from warmer climes, tend to stay near their heaters. “The lions look at the snow and act like we put it there,” McCormack laughs. “The tigers and cougars like it though.”

In every aspect of their work, the interns are taught safety first and foremost. Naturally that concern is even more important during treacherous weather conditions.

“It’s safety for us, but also for the big cats and the public,” says McCormack. “Naturally we don’t want anybody hurt, the public or anybody here, so we spend a lot of time keeping the walkways and access roads clear as well.”

Fortunately, McCormack says, most of the new interns are from up north and are familiar with snow. “On the other hand,” she adds, “there’s a difference between going to school or going to work in the snow, and going out to take care of lions, tigers, and bears in the snow. A big difference. But they’re getting it.”

More snow and rain is predicted for the weekend. For information on how to donate to help take care of our snowbound critters, go to https://www.turpentinecreek.org/donations.

No snow day for big cats, caretakers

snow ball

For many people, a snow day means no school, no work – an involuntary holiday where all you can do is stay in by the fire and listen for the snow plow to go by. At Turpentine Creek Wildlife Preserve, however, a snow like the one that just hit over the weekend means exactly the opposite.

“Our new group of interns just spent two weeks training, and now, on their second day, it snows and everything’s topsy-turvy,” says TCWR Curator Emily McCormack. “You can’t wash out the concrete areas obviously when they’re covered with snow, but if you don’t clear it out, the cats walk on it and pack it down, and it turns to ice, then they slip trying to get around. So the interns chip it out or shovel it out or whatever’s necessary. That pretty white snow doesn’t stay pretty and white for very long. Plus they have to break up the ice on the water dishes several times daily when it’s like this.”

Fortunately, tigers enjoy snow and cold weather. The more sensitive cats, like the lions, which come from warmer climes, tend to stay near their heaters. “The lions look at the snow and act like we put it there,” McCormack laughs. “The tigers and cougars like it though.”

In every aspect of their work, the interns are taught safety first and foremost. Naturally that concern is even more important during treacherous weather conditions.

“It’s safety for us, but also for the big cats and the public,” says McCormack. “Naturally we don’t want anybody hurt, the public or anybody here, so we spend a lot of time keeping the walkways and access roads clear as well.”

Fortunately, McCormack says, most of the new interns are from up north and are familiar with snow. “On the other hand,” she adds, “there’s a difference between going to school or going to work in the snow, and going out to take care of lions, tigers, and bears in the snow. A big difference. But they’re getting it.”

More snow and rain is predicted for the weekend. For information on how to donate to help take care of our snowbound critters, go to https://www.turpentinecreek.org/donations.

Old interns say goodbye, hello to new group

These are among the new interns starting at Turpentine Creek this time around.

These are among the new interns starting at Turpentine Creek this time around.

 

Last Wednesday night, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge held a party it holds twice a year, to say hello to a new crop of interns and goodbye to the group heading out the door.

The new arrivals are full of curiosity and amazement. Their voices betray their excitement, their conversations buzz. They gather around the room in clumps, talking rapidly, new interns who have bonded with their fellow newbies, old timers who are watching remembering what it was like when they first arrived. And the few who have chosen to re-apply and stay over another half year.

Those going on from here to further endeavors – work in refuges like this one, zoos, even sometimes continuing their formal educations, like veterinary-student-to-be Kristen Thomas – also show their excitement, but with them it is a different animal, a different sort of thing than they felt six months earlier, more or a year (often interns return for one or more additional six-month internships here).

They are excited because after six months they know how amazing this work can be; and they understand, in ways they never have before, the importance, the vital urgency, of this work.

New interns Lauren Dafoe and Lee Rodriguez make a new friend at the going away party for the outgoing intern class.

New interns Lauren Dafoe and Lee Rodriguez make a new friend at the going away party for the outgoing intern class.

After a attractive meal of pulled pork BBQ prepared by TCWR staffer and chef Victor Smith, each graduating intern stood up to say a few (or several) words about their experiences here, thanks to their mentors and words of advice to their replacements.

Noah Schnur, one of the few interns who reapplied and is here for another round of internship, urged his new fellow interns to take nothing for granted about their upcoming experiences. “Never stop learning and paying attention,” he said. “Good days and bad, this is the best job you’ll ever have.”

A fresh new intern, Stephanie Sandy of Horsham, Penn., outside Philadelphia, is taken aback by Northwest Arkansas. “I’m a city girl,” she told the others gathered. “I didn’t even know I’d be in the mountains down here!”

The most common theme of all those leaving to those arriving was simple: “Please take care of our cats.”

“Everybody has their own favorite cat and gets attached,” said TCWR Vice-President Scott Smith. “And in fact, I always tell them, some people are more animal-people than people-people, so make sure you don’t let your personal likes and dislikes affect your goals and aspirations in coming here. It’s all about the cats.”

The new interns have just finished their two-week training and will be at Turpentine Creek for the next six months.

 

Turpentine Creek Spring Break almost here

EurekaSpringsKiteFest

For Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, Spring Break is when things really kick off again for the year – the weather gets warmer and the big cats enjoy their time outside and the change of the seasons.

Booking for lodging at TCWR during this time of year is always “get it while you can,” according to Lodging Coordinator Lori Hartle. “At the moment there are still some vacancies available.”

In addition to its lodges, suites, and tree house, Turpentine Creek also offers camping and RV sites, also popular once the weather begins to warm.

One thing to keep in mind is that with its proximity to Eureka Springs, TCWR is a perfect jumping-off point to enjoy the rest of the area’s attractions – the Great Passion Play and Christ of the Ozarks, Lake Leatherwood Park, shopping and dining downtown, and all the canoeing and other outdoor activities available west of the town toward Beaver Lake.

“Lots of times people come here just for us and fail to take advantage of the other things to do around here,” Hartle said. “Or else they stop by here as an afterthought and wish they’d come when they had more time, or that they’d just stayed here outright.”

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is always in need of volunteers. Either individually or in groups, people find their donated time very rewarding. While there is never contact between volunteers and the big cats, as long you you’re over 18 (or over 12 if accompanied by an adult), there are many projects which need to be done that currently take time from our primary staff.

For more info on how to volunteer, email Ivy Cooper at ivy@www.turpentinecreek.org or call (479) 253-5958.

Spring Break will wind up here on Saturday, March 28, with one of Turpentine Creek’s most popular events of the year, its 25th annual Kite Festival celebration.

“Art With an Altitude,” sponsored by KaleidoKites of Eureka Springs, is a free family event inviting attendees to bring their own kites or buy one at the refuge. The celebration includes vendors, contests and fun activities for parents and children.

KaleidoKites’ experts will be available to assist children in kite making and flying techniques. Donations to the refuge requested for kite making assistance.

“Making and flying kites is a ‘green’ sport’ families can share. It’s wind-fueled and gets kids away from sedentary activities like TV viewing and video games,” says Steve Rogers, KaleidoKites co-owner. “It’s a great photo-opportunity with world-class kites worth over a thousand dollars flown during the event. These kites are works of art, which is only fitting for an artist’s community like Eureka Springs.”

Admission is free for kite flying; regular admission prices apply to tour refuge wildlife on display. Proceeds help pay for the rescue and ongoing care of over 120 tigers, lions, cougars and other wildlife that make the sanctuary a life-long home.

For vendor information for this and other TCWR events contact victor@www.turpentinecreek.org.

Noted exotic animal expert, documentarians visit Turpentine Creek

_SE54712

 

Although only about 3,200 tigers still exist in the wild, between 5-7,000 exist in private homes, many in the United States. What happens when the unthinkable happens, and someone’s pet tiger escapes? A scared and dangerous 400 lb. cat isn’t anybody’s idea of a fun visitor at 2 a.m. or any other time.

On Monday, Tim Harrison, noted exotic animal expert and co-founder of Outreach for Animals, met with Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge staff to talk about that very subject. Also on hand were Carroll County Sheriff Bob Grudek, Eureka Springs Fire Chief Rhys Williams, and other first responders.

The meet-up was coordinated by TCWR President Tanya Smith and a team of young documentary film makers who are following Harrison and his work around the country. One of the film’s producers, David Enden, was an intern at Turpentine Creek a year ago. The other two-thirds of the team, award-winning filmmakers John Mingione and Chris Capelluto, are Enden’s childhood friends.

Harrison, who has dealt with everything from big cats to primates to reptiles, said the word “animal sanctuary” is often used very loosely, resulting in dire situations for all involved.

“Not every place is like Turpentine Creek,” he said. “This place is spot-on. You follow safety protocols and your staff obviously knows what they’re doing. Everything is clean and safe, and the animals are well cared for. It isn’t like that always, believe me.”

Harrison co-founded Outreach For Animals in 2001 with group of fellow police officers, firefighters, and paramedics. Outreach For Animals, a non-profit 501©(3) organization, has as its mission educating young people to respect wildlife and its natural habitat. But they educate other people as well.

“No matter how well trained you are as a police officer, fire fighter, or EMT, most people never have to deal with a live tiger jumping out of a burning building, for instance, because someone had it as a pet but forgot to mention it,” he said. “But I was there when it happened. We got it in the back of the sheriff’s car, which it tore to shreds, but that was the only place we had available.”

Harrison is the focus of “The Elephant in the Living Room,” praised by critics as “one of the best films of the year.” The documentary “takes viewers on a journey deep inside the controversial American subculture of raising the most dangerous animals in the world as common household pets.

One purpose of the meeting was so TCWR could share with local officials the depth of its own safety protocols and to help coordinate that plan with law enforcement and other first responders should it ever have to be implemented.

“It goes without saying that human life takes absolute priority in every case,” said TCWR Vice-President Scott Smith. “What we’re interested in here today is everyone being familiar with Turpentine Creek, being familiar with what we do and what to expect should they ever need to be called.”

All attendees shared copies of TCWR’s, safety plan, and at the suggestion of Sheriff Grudek, a meeting is planned between now and the end of the year to bring in more local responders to disseminate the information as broadly as possible. Also planned are a series of situation analysis drills to put the safety protocols into practice.

 

 

Cold weather brings challenges for big cat caretakers

abagail-53499

 

Although caring for over 100 tigers, lions, bears and other exotic wildlife is a challenge any time of the year, winter weather creates many extra challenges. Whereas tigers grow a winter coat, as do cougars and other native species, African animals suffer from the cold if not protected by heated enclosures.

“We’re fortunate to have had a nice leopard habitat for several years,” says Turpentine Creek Curator Emily McCormack. “Lions stress in this weather as well. We’ve just installed a heater in Thor’s new space. That’s especially important with the older cats of any type. Winter is hard on everybody.”

Thor has been a special challenge, McCormack says. “First we put a door on his space to keep the cold out, but he just ripped that off. Then we installed one of those big heavy-duty plastic cased heaters you can bolt to the floor, but I guess it looked like a toy, because he ripped that out as well. Now we’ve installed one of those floor heaters like you can put in your kitchen or bathroom under the tiles. We’ve covered it with a thin layer of concrete. We use a massive amount of straw for bedding for all the cats. We’re hoping that Thor’s new set-up will work out better for him.”

In addition to the heating issue, interns and staff must make sure the ice is broken regularly on the cats’ water. Winter also makes cleaning more difficult. “You can’t use a hose to clean out an area, leaving a sheet of ice behind for the cats to slide around on,” McCormack says. “And while the tigers playing in the snow looks great, it doesn’t stay pristine and white for too long. So we shovel it out by hand.”

McCormack says though it’s been cold this winter, the fact there’s been no snows has been a blessing. “If we could put a big bubble over the refuge to keep it warm, that would be great, but we can’t. Although it is hard on the electric bill, we take care of all our animals here, when it’s freezing cold and any other time.”

 

Lions get new night house, coyote doubles floor space

Lion habitat concrete

On Tuesday, Turpentine Creek staff jumped in to help pour concrete for a new night house for Wyoming and Lucci, two of our male lions.

Improving their night house – the area where the big cats go at night to sleep and where they eat – is just part of the construction and expansion going on at TCWR. Because the USDA has increased minimum heights for cage enclosures up to 12 feet if they have a 3-foot jump rail, or 16 feet without, TCWR staff has been refurbishing all habitats built before 2005 to accommodate the new guidelines.

“Since we’re here putting up the higher fence anyway, we just thought it would be a good time to go ahead and put in this new night house for those guys,” says Turpentine Creek Curator Emily McCormack. “It’s in a better spot for several reasons, including water runoff. It will be more comfortable for them.”

Just up the hill, the habitat of Cheyenne, a coyote, has been undergoing expansion as well. “His habitat is long and narrow, but there is room to make it broader, so that’s what we did,” says McCormack. “I call it his ‘double-wide.’”

10947418_10152534437992186_3878181557877978144_o

Growth and renovation are a continual part of life at TCWR. Within a few months construction will begin on the new on-site veterinary clinic, and the old “compound” are which housed Turpentine Creek’s original big cat population is being torn out to be replaced with larger, grassy, comfortable habitats for the big cats.

For information on how to donate to construction and expansion projects at Turpentine Creek, go to https://www.turpentinecreek.org/index.php/donations.