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.

Declawing and Defanging

The Painful Lives of “Safe” Big Cats

September 5, 2017

An X-Ray of a declawed cougar’s paw. The joints in their toes fused into a curled position due to arthritis. They also developed a bone growth on their ‘wrist’ from shifting their weight and walking on their wrists instead of their toes.

No big cat is ever safe, even if they have been declawed and defanged. Declawing and defanging are two painful attempts at making a wild animal safe enough to be handled by humans, but nothing can make a dangerous wild animal safe enough to be a pet.

The declawing process removes the last bone at the knuckle on each toe. Cats walk with most of their weight on their toes when you remove the toe it forces them to shift their weight further back on bones and muscles not naturally made for this purpose.

In house cats, declawing increases the likelihood of poor behaviors like not using the litter box correctly, spraying, biting, aggression and later in life arthritis. Big cats have similar behavior problems, but they are garunteed to get arthritist since they are larger and put more weight on their feet.

Another painful risk with declawing is that if they don’t get every little bit of the bone, the claw will attempt to grow back, but not like a normal claw. These claw cunks are deformed and cannot exit the paw. This causes pain and discomfort for the animals. Over all it is a very painful life for any cat, big or small, that is declawed.

Thurston was part of a magic show. The magician declawed and defanged him so that he was ‘safer’ around the public. He will need dental work.

Defanging is another painful process done to many wild animals to try to make them ‘safer.’ Defanging is when the canine teeth are removed. Although big cats chew their food with their back teeth, they still need their front teeth to grip the meat so that they can chew it properly.

Defanging can be done one of two ways, either the teeth could be ground down, leaving the nerves exposed and pockets for rot to happen, or the canines can be pulled out. Most of the time defanging is done by a veterinarian, but in some cases, owners will attempt this process on their own. Teeth that were not removed decay faster making it ever harder for the animal to eat. Most defanged cats have to be put on boneless meat, and then extra calcium supplemented to make up for the lack of bones in their diet.

This was is the case with Vada, a black leopard, whose owner used pliers to remove his teeth so that he could continue to play with him. Vada came to TCWR in a lot of pain. He had to have multiple procedures to fix the damage, but he spent the remainder of his life living an uncomfortable life due to his owner’s desire to make him ‘safe.’

The USDA’s Animal Welfare Act addresses the issue of declawing and defanging big cats and non-human primates, but these procedures are not yet illegal. Until it is made illegal road side zoos, magicians, and pseudo-sanctuaries will continue to inhumanely declaw and defang big cats so that the public can interact with them.

A photo of Vada’s defanged mouth. Vada passed away in 2011.

“Declawing or the removal of the canine teeth (fangs) in wild or exotic carnivores or nonhuman primates are no longer considered to be appropriate veterinary care unless prescribed by the attending veterinarian for treatment of individual medical problems of the paws or teeth. These procedures are no longer deemed to be acceptable when performed solely for handling or husbandry purposes since they can cause considerable pain and discomfort to the animal and may result in chronic health problems. These procedures are no longer allowed under the Animal Welfare Act. This notice is consistent with the current position statement issued by the American Veterinary Medical Association.” – USDA Animal Welfare Act

In the past, declawing was seen as a standard practice, but as more research has been done, the animal care field has found out the poor consequences of these actions. Good rescue facilities are willing to adapt and learn about new standards of animal husbandry. Their goal is to do whatever is in the best interest of the animals in their care. They are willing to change policies and procedures for the betterment of the animals.

Over the 25 years that Turpentine Creek has been open, our policies and procedures have changed. We’ve learned better ways to build habitats, feed, and care for our animals. We’ve evolved and adapted as needed over the years. We do not declaw, defang, or allow hands-on interaction with our animals. For our declawed and defanged animals, we have them in a pain management program to help them live as normal lives as possible. We will continue to learn and grow as long as we are needed making sure what we do is in the best interest of the animals in our care.

Ground Breaking

New Visitor Education Center

August 18, 2017

Turpentine Creek would like to invite you to help us celebrate the next big step in our evolution as a big cat sanctuary. Although our mission is to rescue abused, abandoned, neglected, and unwanted big cats that are victims of the exotic pet trade, our goal is to also educate the public about the exotic pet trade and prevent the suffering of big cats in captivity.

For over 25 years, Turpentine Creek has been rescuing big cats and educating the public about the exotic animal problem that is in the U.S.A. As we’ve grown as a non-profit our facility has grown with us. We started 25 years ago with a small area full of enclosures, a gift shop, and a small dedicated team. We have since grown to a larger facility with large, open spacious habitats for our animals, a vet hospital, and commissary. We are an ever changing and evolving facility, doing what we can to help protect and care for big cats in need.

On October 27, 2017, at 1 pm, we will be celebrating the kickoff of our newest project, a beautiful new Visitor Education Center. This building will provide better opportunities for us to host groups, schools, and more visitors at the refuge. The new Visitor Education Center is planned to have a small gift shop where visitors can get souvenirs, a multipurpose education space, kiosks with big cat facts, and a small restaurant with big windows so visitors can eat and watch some of the animals that call Turpentine Creek home. 

For years, we have done our best to educate the public about the plight of big cats in captivity, but in recent years we have grown to the point that our current gift shop and the facility cannot properly handle the number of people and groups visiting. Because of this, we have drawn up plans for a Visitor Education Center that would allow us to not only accommodate the people visiting, but expand on the educational aspect of our missions.

Please join us for the ‘ground breaking’ of our new Visitor Education Center. This will be our largest project to date and will change Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge forever. With your help, we can change not only exotic animals’ lives but also human lives.

Come celebrate with us on October 27th and stay the following day for our annual Howl-O-Ween event! It is the only night of the year that you can see our big cats at night. It will be an amazing weekend full of fun and fundraising!

Solar Eclipse

Unique Experience

August 15, 2017

In less than a week, part of the United States of America will experience a total solar eclipse. This beautiful spectacle is so rare that the last time a total eclipse happened was in 1979! Although Turpentine Creek is not in the path of totality, we will experience a “deep partial” eclipse of 92%. This spectacular and unique experience will last in our little part of the world from 11:43 am CST until 2:41 pm CST with the peak viewing time at 1:13 pm.

This spectacular and unique experience will last in our little part of the world from 11:43 am CST until 2:41 pm CST with the peak viewing time at 1:13 pm. Our visitors and team will get to experience the beautiful view throughout the midday and observe how the animals react to this strange phenomenon.

The solar eclipse might be a beautiful sight to witness, but it isn’t just the lack of light that some people enjoy observing during eclipses. Many people have reported that during solar eclipses animals act differently. Nocturnal (night) animals wake up, diurnal (day) animals go to sleep, and crepuscular (twilight) animals become active. Tigers, lions, leopards, bobcats, and cougars are nocturnal and crepuscular, which should prove to be an interesting event to observe for our visitors.

We invite everyone to stop out and enjoy the partial solar eclipse with us. We have ordered a limited number of Solar glasses, which will be available and can be purchased at the gift shop the day of the eclipse.

We still have some rooms available for August 20th and 21st so book your stay and enjoy a truly unique day at the refuge! It will be another 7 years before anyone else can experience an eclipse day at Turpentine Creek. The next total eclipses to come to our area will not be until April 8, 2024 (98.81%) and August 12, 2045 (99.91%).


Bear Day Is Here

Enriching The Lives Of Our New Bear Residents

July 31, 2017

Today is National Bear Day and we have 13 special residents who are celebrating in style! Our 13 bears are getting extra special treats to celebrate a day all about them. We are also hosting a special fundraiser to help give 6 of our bears brand new, large, natural homes.

Bears are different than our other residents. Unlike our big cats, who sleep 18-20 hours a day, bears are awake and active most of the day. Bears need special habitats and extra enrichment to keep them occupied. Not only do our bears get normal enrichment like boxes, pools, and boomer balls, but we also give them fruitsicles, branches, pinatas, and scatter feed some them.

In nature bears will spend their days foraging, building day nests, digging for snacks, and some even climbing trees to take a nap. We are making sure our new habitats will allow them to perform as many natural behaviors as possible along with our extra, human made, enrichment.

But we cannot do this without you! it is going to cost us $150,000 to build the 2 new habitats. These habitats are the largest we’ve ever built and will be over 1/2 acre and 1 1/2 acres large. They are full of trees, vegetation, and we will also be building pools and benches for the bears.

Today we are hosting an online auction, live video, and other online activities to help raise money for two new large habitats, and awareness about bears in captivity.

Please visit Our Bear Habitat Page to the bear habitats now. Help us give our bears the best lives possible in captivity.

Bear Day

Bear Habitat Donation Drive

July 25, 2017

Join us on July 31, 2017, for a day to put the fun into ‘fun’draising. Help us build our newest bear residents two new habitats. These habitats will be the largest habitats ever built on property standing at over 1/2 acre and 1 1/2 acres. They will be natural habitats filled with brush, trees, berry bushes, pools, and lots of other natural enrichment to give our bears the best lives possible in captivity.

It will cost us $150,000 to build these two habitats. So far, we’ve raised $60,800 for the two habitats but we still have a long way to go. So, mark your calendars and join us on Monday, July 31st to give our bears the “Bear Necessities”.

Tiger Day

Can We Stop The Countdown?

July 24, 2017

International Tiger Day is this Saturday. Tiger Day, which is celebrated on July 29th every year, is a day set aside to help raise public awareness about the threats that are dwindling the world’s wild tiger population. These magnificent animals are on the brink of extinction and without action, they could be completely extinct in the wild by the time our children are grown.

Below is a timeline of the wild tiger population, where they were in the 1900’s to where they are today:

  • In the 1900’s, wild tiger populations were well over 100,000 but through poaching, habitat loss, trophy hunting, bone wine, “medicinal” use, and other various factors the population had been nearly decimated.
  • By the 1970’s, the population dropped to less than 4,000.
  • In 2010, populations hit an all time low at approximately 3,200 total left in the wild. Through conservation efforts in 2016, we witnessed a slight population increase up to 3,890.

Conservation efforts need to start in the wild. Captive breeding is only a small part of conservation and there are regulated captive breeding programs, such as the Species Survival Plan (SSP), that monitor breeding programs to ensure that the animals involved are of the same subspecies, are not inbred (a common issue with captively bred big cats in the exotic pet trade), and have no major genetic defects.

These efforts in captivity, however, are only secondary measures to guarantee that there will be a viable population of tigers who could be potentially introduced into the wild. But before we can even consider introducing these captive bred populations, we have to first stop the issues that have brought them to near extinction in the first place.

There are a few ways that you and your community can help end the decline of wild tiger populations:

  1. No Palm Oil – Palm oil comes from Sumatra, the destruction of the Palm forest is decreasing habitat for the Sumatran tiger along with other species like the Orangutan. The Cheyenne Zoo has created a phone app you can download to help you identify products that have Palm Oil in them. The app is called Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping.
  2. Speak Up – Let your state and Congressional Representatives know that this is an issue that you are passionate about. Poaching, hunting, and selling these beautiful animals is still a major concern. Remember, they work for you!
  3. Be a Responsible Tourist – Avoid places that breed cubs and pay-to-play schemes.
  4. Spread the Word – Don’t be quiet about your concern. Talk about the issue and help educate everyone about the plight of tigers in the wild and in captivity.

National Zookeeper Week 2017

Meet Our Team

July 18, 2017

Turpentine Creek is full of dedicated individuals who do everything from filing paperwork all the way up to animal care. The third Sunday in July is the official start of National Zookeeper Week. This week is all about celebrating the individuals who work hard to promote conservation efforts and help endangered species thrive. For National Zookeeper Week 2017 we are featuring our animal care team members and giving our supporters a chance to get to know each and every one of them. Watch the playlist below to meet all of our amazing animal care staff members.

Celebrating Our Team

National Zoo Keeper Week 2017

July 16, 2017

July 16-22 is National Zoo Keeper Week. In recognition of dedicated animal keepers, the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) members are celebrating National Zoo Keeper Week from July 16-22. As a member of the AAZK we are proud to join in a week celebrating our team’s efforts to educate the public about the plight of big cats in captivity and the need for true conservation efforts.

Although we are not a zoo, we are the caretakers of our animal residents and the educators of our human visitors. We work hard to provide everything the animals in our care need to live the best lives possible in captivity.

Our team puts in long hours in the blistering cold of winter and the blazing heat of summer because the animals need us. Animals don’t take a day off, they require fresh food and water daily. They need clean places to sleep and constant enrichment to keep their minds stimulated. We work despite the weather, muscle aches, scrapes, bruises, and blisters because we are dedicated to giving the animals in our care the best lives possible and they need us every day.

Because of this, we have planned a week full of special events for our team to show our appreciation. They deserve a week that celebrates their accomplishments, dedication, and passion. So, we’ve got something special planned for each day this week so that they know how much they mean to us.

Day 1 – Breakfast

Day 2  – Special Surprise Gift!

Day 2  – Special Surprise Gift!

Day 3 – Lunch

Day 4 – Ice Cream Social

Day 5 – Pizza Party

Day 6 – Special Surprise Gift!

Day 7 – Celebration Cake

Many of the daily event items were donated by board members or the company that provided us with the gift. We wanted to express our appreciation for the dedication and passion our team continually puts into making sure that our animals are well cared for.

We encourage our supporters to let our team know how much they appreciate what they do. You can send thank you letters to They will be presented to the team on July 21st.

Encouraging Nature

Engaging Our Animals’ Minds

July 14, 2017

We work hard to make sure our animals get the chance to be as wild as possible in captivity. That includes creating enrichment programs to encourage natural behaviors in our animals such as hunting, stalking, and ‘killing’ their enrichment toys. Watch the video to see some of these natural behaviors.