Thanksgiving at TCWR

We are Thankful For Our Amazing Supporters

November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks for all that we have. Everyone at Turpentine Creek is thankful for our fantastic supporters. We couldn’t do what we do without all of you. We are also thankful for our interns and team members (past and present), their hard work and dedication have made us what we are today, one of the countries best big cat sanctuaries.

The year is not over yet; we still need your help to finish our year off strong and prepare for 2018. On November 28, 2017, the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, the country comes together to celebrate #GivingTuesday, the official kickoff of the giving season. This is a day for the world to come together and show their support to their favorite non-profit.

As the year wraps up we reflect on the last year. The last 12 months have been a very rewarding adventure for the team at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. This time last year our team was divided, a portion of the team was caring for animals in Colorado while the rest of us remained in Arkansas to care for the animals here.

Our team is very close, we celebrate together, we mourn together, and of course, we spend holidays together – since our big cats need care every day of the year. We are a family and spend holidays much like a typical family, eating food, trading gifts, and playing games, but last year it was more difficult since we were not all in one location. Now that the Colorado Project has wrapped up in Colorado, we will be able to get back to our normal routine of celebrating the holidays together.

Thank you for all that you have done to help make Turpentine Creek great. We have saved approximately 500 souls since we opened in 1992. Without our supporters that would have been impossible. We are working hard to change the laws and prevent big cats from being victims of the exotic pet trade, but until that happens and all the animals have passed, we will continue to open our hearts and offer refuge to big cats in need.

THANK YOU for all that you do to help the animals that call Turpentine Creek home. From the TCWR family to yours, we wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. We hope you get the chance to spend time with your family – both blood and non-blood – this holiday season.

Safety Improvements

Shelter from the Storms

November 10, 2017

Turpentine Creek is making strides to improve our facility, not just for the animals in our care but also for the humans who live here and spend time on the property. We’ve begun updating our emergency procedures, planning emergency drills, making sustainability plans, scheduling training sessions, installing storm shelters around the property, and making room for storm shelters in our plans for our new Visitor Education Center.

Beyond the storm shelters planned for the Visitor Education Center, we’ve also contracted Eureka Springs Storm Shelters to instal shelters near our team housing and lodging unites. This week two storm shelters were installed down at the team housing area and plans for the installation of lodging storm shelters are in place. Small changes, like new procedures and storm shelters, are making Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge that much safer for our visitors, supporters, and team members.

Each of the storm shelters can hold between 9-12 people as well as some supplies. They are waterproof and meet FEMA and state shelter requirements. The interior of the shelters are 7′ wide, 10′ long and 6’2″ tall. Although our founding family (the Smiths) might have to duck while inside the shelters, most team members should comfortably fit in them.

Our big cats also have secured shelter from storms. Their night houses are made to withstand storms. To make sure our animals’ remain safe we install the metal poles in the ground than pour cement to secure them. Each night house has a secured roof to prevent debris from falling on the animals. They also have heavy cement night houses (made from never used septic tanks) so that they can get out of the rain. Any time a storm is predicted we secure the animals in their night houses for their own safety. That is one reason why each of our habitats has a night house. These small areas provide our animals with secure areas to weather out storms and also allow us to securely separate the animals from our team when we need to clean their habitats.

This upcoming year looks to be an amazing year filled with changes and improvements to our refuge. From sustainability efforts to website improvements, a lot of changes are in the works that will help improve our supporter and visitor experience.


Giving Tuesday 2017

A Day Of Giving

November 3, 2017

Join us on November 28th from 7a-7p for #GivingTuesday. A perfect day to support your favorite non-profits, like Turpentine Creek, and give back to your communities. #GivingTuesday is the kickoff event of the giving season. It is the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, following Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.

So many organizations, including Facebook and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, are doing their best to make #GivingTuesday the best day to give! On #GivingTuesday Facebook is waving their normal fees for all donations made through Facebook. So, 100% of your donations made on the social media site will come to us! Also, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will be matching up to $2 million of funds raised for US nonprofits through Facebook’s charitable giving tools!

Even if you can’t give as much as you wish you could (we all would love to give a million dollars to our favorite charity, but most of us don’t have that much to give), there are ways you can still help. #MyGivingStory is a contest that is running from now until #GivingTuesdday where supporters can submit their giving story. 20 winners of the #MyGivingStory contest will get between $500 and $10,000 to give to their favorite charity! Click here to submit your #MyGivingStory.

This year we’ve set some big goals that we need your help with! We are in need of some equipment to help us build our bear habitats (and MANY future habitats). These tools will help us build bigger and better habitats for our animals.

We are raising money for:

  1. A Bobcat Auger Attachment – $5,900
  2. A Bobcat Trencher Attachment – $2,500
  3. A Stihl Concrete Saw – $1,000
  4. A Stihl XL Saw – $750
  5. 4 Stihl Professional Weedeaters ($350 each) – $1,400

Each piece of this equipment will make it easier for us to build and maintain larger habitats. As we tackle larger habitat builds we are finding that we need different equipment to help us build them right in a timely manner.

With your help, we can raise the funds to get this equipment and continue working on expanding our refuge. We have over 450 acres of property at and this point we are only using a little over 100. We have a lot of room to grow as it is needed.

We are also planning some online activities on #GivingTuesday. We hope to offer a few contests throughout the day on our Facebook Page to win small prizes. We also plan to give away prizes as we reach each of our individual goals as we progress towards our full goal of $11,550.

Donating isn’t the only way to help support Turpentine Creek on #GivingTuesday. You can also show your support of our #GivingTuesday campaign by adding our Facebook Frame to your Facebook profile picture, share our posts about #GivingTuesday, and talking to your friends about supporting Turpentine Creek on #GivingTuesday. So, visit our Facebook Page from now until #GivingTuesday to donate, participate in activities, and share our mission. With your help, we can reach our goals and put the fun in fundraising!

Membership Program

New Tiered Membership Levels

October 27, 2017

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is thrilled to announce our new Wild About Wildlife Membership Tier Program! This new tiered membership program allows for our supporters to choose a membership level that fits their needs and get extra benefits as they progress through the tiers.

The program consists of four levels: the Friends of India, the Bam Bam Benefactors, the Kenny Fellowship, and the president’s club – the Hilda Jackson Society. Each is its own exclusive community that allows for donors to engage with one another, take home fantastic sign-up gifts, and support the Refuge in the most effective way possible. This will allow for TCWR to respond more quickly to the needs of the survivors of the exotic pet trade, and enable us to budget for larger projects, and projects that will have the greatest impact in the years to come.

By using a tiered model, the program will not only allow for donors of all levels to become involved but also, the membership donations themselves are funneled directly into our General Fund – allowing us to use funds where they are needed the most and when they are needed the most.

Turpentine is always growing and evolving to not only provide the best lives possible for our animal residents but to also make our supporter and visitors’ experiences better. We know that our new membership program will allow us to form a better connection to our supporters. We hope that our donors, supporters, and visitors will benefit from the new program and help us continue to provide the best lives possible for the animals in our care.

Click here to learn more about the different membership levels and sign up for your new membership today. Take a moment to explore the new Membership page and see what has changed. 

Annual Howl-O-Ween

Fun and Felines in the Dark

October 23, 2017

Ghosts, ghouls, and growls, this is Howl-O-Ween at Turpentine Creek. Once a year we open our doors to the public after dark and let them enjoy the animals when they are the most active. Big cats are nocturnal and diurnal, so they spend most of the day sleeping. This is a great chance for kids (of all ages) to dress up, have some fun, and of course get stalked in the dark by a tiger.

Join us on October 28, 2017, from 7-9pm CST for our annual Howl-O-Ween event. Everyone is invited to join us for an evening of fright and felines. Life’s no fun without a good scare.

Each year we put together a fun event for the whole family. Games, costume contests, hayrides, and a spooky-fun tunnel that lets you see the cats and creepy costumed team members handing out treats. It is a great way to kick off the holiday season and see your favorite animals after the ‘lights go out.’

We hope to see you here, if not this year than next. Make plans for a trip to Turpentine for the special, one night a year, event. It will be a frighteningly good time!

New Emergency Equipment

Animal Ambulance

October 17, 2017

Keeping our animals and team safe when transporting them around our property is very important to us. Recently, we were given the opportunity to acquire an old, used military Humvee. We purchased the vehicle and went about making improvements so that it would fit our needs. This Humvee will only be used on property to quickly and safely transport the animal from their habitat to the vet hospital.

To customize the vehicle for our needs we added a lift, cage, and lights. These additions allow us to safely lift and transport an animal that has been sedated. The cage was installed so that if an animal were to wake up from sedation during transport it would not be able to escape. Although no humans will ride in the caged area with the sedated cat, there is a small latched access door, within the vehicle cab, that will allow an animal care staff member to reach into the animal confinement area to check on the animal as necessary.

On our new animal ambulance, we have installed a series of bright lights to assist us in seeing if an emergency transport might have to take place after dark. There is also a flashing light to let team members and visitors know that the Humvee is coming and to move out of the way in case of an emergency.

So far, the ambulance has already been used to transport a few animals to our veterinary hospital. Moving an animal takes a little practice, this is a whole new procedure for us after all. Peyton slept through a short trial of the ambulance when she needed to go to the vet hospital for x-rays.

We are very excited about this new piece of equipment. Key members of our animal care team went through a short training session to learn how to properly drive the Humvee and how to operate the lift. We will continue to use the ambulance as needed to make sure our animals are safe and healthy at our refuge.


Goober’s New House

Donated Winter Home

October 10, 2017

Goober, our resident senior Rhesus Macaque Monkey, will be spending this winter living in the lap of luxury in his new heated winter home. Recently, a previous intern, Sara Steinbrecher, donated the funds to purchase and fix up a small portable building to keep Goober warm and comfortable throughout the cooler season.

Winter can be a harsh season for humans and some animals. Tigers, cougars, bobcats, and bears are adapted to the cooler climates and weather. Primates, like humans and Rhesus Macaque Monkeys, and warm climate cats like lions and servals, are not as well adapted for the colder weather. We do our best to provide our less adapted animals warm places to enjoy during the cooler months.

Smaller cats like the servals have heated dens and we provide our lions with plenty of warm bedding or a heated den if one is available. We do have a few full sized heated dens but not enough for all our big cats to enjoy, perhaps one day we will get the funding to heat all our dens.

Until this year, Goober has enjoyed a small heated den during the cooler months. We are really excited to upgrade Goober’s winter home to a spacious heated house. We also plan to decorate the house with a lot of enrichment items so that he can live like a king.

We will be building an overhead walkway for Goober to get from his current habitat to his new heated house. Even during the cooler months he will continue to have access to his habitat but will have the ability to spend as much time as he wants in his new heated home.

We are grateful to Sara for her generous donation. Goober will spend the remainder of his life living in a luxury home custom made especially for him. It is only with your help we can provide the best lives possible for our animal residents. Thank you to everyone who supports us. Click here to donate now and help us make sure all our animals can enjoy the winter in style. 


Fall and Felines

Changing Seasons

October 3, 2017

Summer is over and soon the leaves will change into a mesmerizing spectrum of color, painting the Ozark mountains in a beautiful array of vibrant reds, yellows, oranges, and browns. Current predictions for the peak of the fall colors this year is around October 31 – November 6.

Fall is one of the better times to visit Turpentine Creek. The animals enjoy the cooler fall days and many visitors find that the animals are the most active in the fall or spring.

The falling leaves also offer a fun seasonal enrichment for the animals that call our refuge home. The cats enjoy pouncing in leaf piles and our bears get a chance to forage and snack on fallen acorns. Seasonal donations also come in. It is a lot of fun to watch a big cat ‘kill’ a pumpkin, or Bam Bam try to use a pumpkin as a balance ball, only for it to get squished under his weight.

Our bears might be slowing down a little bit due to the cooler temperatures but they still come out daily to forage and enjoy the fading sunshine. Since we feed our bears year-round they never truly go into hibernation. They slow down and sleep most of the day, only getting up long enough to eat. This won’t happen until the end of fall or early winter. Until then the bears still come out to entertain our visitors with their funny antics.

We also offer a few unique activities during the fall season. On October 28, 2017, from 7 pm – 9 pm CST, Turpentine Creek will host our annual Howl-O-Ween Spooktacular event. This is the only time of the year that our visitors can visit the animals after dark. We offer a variety of fun activities for the kids, a hayride tour of our animals, and a scary stroll through our bear tunnel.

This year we are also having a special celebration on October 27th, 2017, at 1 pm CST, we will also be hosting a groundbreaking kickoff for our newest project, a new Visitor Education Center. This new center will include many things such as a small cafe, a large multipurpose room, a gift shop, and much more! This will help us accommodate more visitors and educate the public about the plight of big cats in captivity.

You can help us make fall the best season for the animals by donating towards enrichment or special treats for the animals. Donate now and help us, help them. Also, keep an eye out for fall lodging specials on Groupon! We are offering some seasonal discounted rates on Groupon. Those rates are subject to availability.

So, gather up your favorite Turpentine Creek hoodie, and make plans to come visit the animals this fall. If you can’t make it out then watch our Facebook page for pictures of fall enrichment that will be coming soon!

Big Cats Live At TCWR

Weekly Live Video Streaming

September 26, 2017

Recently, many social media sites have begun offering live streaming video. This feature allows supporters a new way to interact with Turpentine Creek, other nonprofits, and businesses, helping social media users to get to know the groups that they choose to support. Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has been working hard for a little over a year to find a way to best utilize this new social media feature so that we could offer this interactive experience to our supporters.

Turpentine Creek team members have worked hard to find a way to provide quality live video to our supporters while staying within our nonprofit budget. We had to update our internet quality, find cameras, and find a streaming system that would do what we need. Then we had to test the equipment and find out exactly the best way to use it. It has been a process but one that we believe will pay off in the end by allowing our supporters better access to our team and a richer experience with our animals.

We are excited to announce that after over a year of research and hard work we have begun producing a weekly live video show, Big Cat Live at TCWR. Each week on Tuesdays, at 10 am CST, we will be going live on our Facebook and Youtube pages. We invite all of our supporters to join us on one of the two platforms, ask questions and enjoy the approximately15-minute ‘show’ that features our refuge, animals, and team members.

Each episode will be made up of three segments; Featured Animal, Team Spotlight, and keeper talk. Ivy Doss, an animal care team member, will be hosting the show. On occasion, we might have extras like vet visits, special guests, and other fun activities to make the show fun for everyone.

Make sure you subscribe to get notifications of live episodes on Facebook and/or Youtube. Watch previous episodes below or on our Youtube page. Get caught up and enjoy all the fun!

This is just the first step into our adventure into live video production. We hope to produce a variety of live shows and eventually even offer continuously streaming live video of animals that can be watched anytime throughout the day. Stay tuned and keep an eye on our live video progress over the next few weeks and months.

Animal Transportation

Safely Moving Dangerous Animals

September 13, 2017

With fires on the west coast, flooding in Texas and Florida, and earthquakes in Mexico, transporting animals to another location might become necessary at some facilities. Typically, most accredited zoos and sanctuaries do not move their animals unless necessary. Transporting animals can be very stressful for the animal and dangerous for the people moving them. When not done with the utmost care there is a risk of an animal escaping or getting injured.

If not done carefully, there is a risk of an animal escaping. That is exactly what happened on September 6, 2017, in Atlanta Georgia. Feld Entertainment, the company that owns Ringling Brothers, was transporting 15 big cats from Florida to Tenessee. The big cats, which are privately owned, were being transported to Tennessee so that they could be shipped to Germany to perform in a circus there since Ringling Brothers no longer use big cats in their shows. Reportedly, a female tiger, named Suzy, escaped sometime while the transport vehicle was stopped at a truck stop in Georgia during the night. The drivers did not know that Suzy had escaped until after they arrived at their destination and heard that there was a tiger killed in Georgia earlier that day.

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge no longer not takes animals off of property unless it is for a rescue or an emergency. In the past, we had to transport cats for veterinary care, but since we have completed our veterinary clinic on site, we no longer have to transport animals, which is safer and less stressful. There is always the risk that a natural disaster could make it necessary for our facility or other facilities to relocate animals and we all must be prepared for this possibility.

Transporting animals must be done as carefully and safely as possible. The team at Turpentine Creek works hard to make sure any time animals are moved that the process is done with the best interest of the animal in mind. We take every precaution to prevent any chance of escape or release of the animals in our care during transport. We utilize padlocks, tie wire and tow straps to secure caging, and video cameras to allow us to make sure our animals are safe and secure at all points during transportation. Our animals are checked on at every stop and given water. We check locks every time we stop and before we get back on the road. We also do our best to make the trip as comfortable as possible for the animals.

With so many animals at risk with all the current natural disasters occurring, Turpentine Creek has prepared our transport cages and rescue gear just in case we are called upon to assist with the relocation of any exotic animals put in danger by floods, fires, or earth quakes. We have double checked the integrity of our transport roll cages, checked our rescue supplies, and even ran a ‘rescue drill’ the other day to make sure we were ready for any call that might come in.

Turpentine Creek is always willing to help any big cat or rescue facilities in need due to a natural disaster.