First Day Of Spring

Un‘bear‘able Fun At TCWR

March 20, 2019

Today marks the first official day of Spring in the Ozarks, and our bear residents are slowly awakening from their winter sleep! While cold weather made them drowsy, we haven’t been seeing much of them on warm days because they still have their winter coats, which means they get hot easily. Large bears, like our grizzly, Bam Bam, and Russian Brown Bear, Huggy, have been hiding out from the “heat” while smaller black bears, Holli, Lolli, Xena, and Koda G., have been more tolerant of it.

The creation of our new bear habitats, which officially opened in late October, has given us the exciting opportunity to see how our bear residents might behave in a more natural environment. Bears born in captivity, like those mentioned above, have been in or out based on their size and coat thickness. Popper, a black bear who grew up in the wild, has been behaving a bit differently, as predicted.

Unlike the other bears who were introduced to the new habitat, Popper quickly set to work crafting a nest for the winter, where she has spent most of her time. She has emerged on nice days to sun herself or relax in the shade but later retreated to her nest. Though her behavior almost completely mirrors that of an independent wild bear, she is not too good to occasionally accept goodies from our animal care team.

As winter departs and the greenery that comes with spring returns, we are excited to observe how the bears who reside in this habitat behave, especially Popper! She has already demonstrated an ability to forage for food, and we are curious to see if her habitat mates catch on (though we will continue to provide everyone with food whether they do or not).

You can visit our new bear enclosures by taking an exclusive tour. We can’t wait for you to enjoy this beautiful weather with us!

Spring Break

Feline Fun at Turpentine Creek

March 12, 2018

Planning your pre-summer vacation can be stressful, but including TCWR in your travel plans is a choice that won’t “Spring Break” your heart! As an ethical tourism destination, you can feel good knowing that your visit to the Refuge is making a difference in the lives of Exotic Pet Trade survivors…while being just plain fun! In addition to normal tours (our trolley is also up and running again!), we have plenty of other feline-fantastic ways to spend a day or two getting to know our animal residents while taking in quality time with the humans you love:

  • March 23rd, attend our 29th Annual “Art With An Altitude” Kite Festival! This event is free, family-friendly and full of “high-flying fun.”
  • Consider spending part of your spring break volunteering to help at the refuge, it is a great way to give back and have fun!
  • Our Education Department is offering age-inclusive programs and activities! Click here to see the full schedule and descriptions.
  • Even if you miss out in March, it’s never too early to book your Summer/Fall stay in one of our lodging accommodations.
  • Stay after the 4 PM tour to see our Behavioral Management Program, which provides extra enrichment for our animal residents by engaging them in an activity that is physically and mentally enticing while also allowing us to do routine medical check-ups and address certain health issues from outside the fence without having to use sedation.

Our big cats love the springtime! New scents, warmer weather, and plenty of puddles to play in. Spring also means that our bears are starting to come out of their ‘long winter’s nap’ and get more active. This is the ‘purrfect’ season to plan a visit to Turpentine Creek.

Remember: most of our animal residents feel frisky in the Springtime, but on hot days, it’s usually best to visit first thing in the morning or later in the evening when the weather is cooler. Since they can’t ditch their fur coats, heat can make them lethargic and seek the cool comfort of their dens.

We hope your visit to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge leaves you with some wonderful memories and a little spring in your step! Spending a day at Turpentine Creek is a fun way to help the animal residents. Plan your spring break visit to TCWR today! And if you cannot make it for a visit this year, please consider donating the cost of entry to help the animals. 

University of Texas students opted to spend their spring break at TCWR volunteering. This is called ‘alternative spring break’ and a great way to give back while having fun!

NWA Gives 2019

Mark your calendars! Less than a month until NWA Gives!

March 6, 2019

There’s nothing better than a “FUN”raiser that doesn’t even require you to leave your house!

NWA Gives day is quickly approaching on April 4, 2019, and we hope you are as excited as we are! This online day of giving lasts from 8 AM – 8 PM, but we’ll be kicking it off a few days early with contests and giveaways right up until the final hour. And the best news of all, you don’t have to live in NWA to participate! NWA Gives is about supporting your favorite Northwest Arkansas non-profit!

Just like a regular fundraiser, you can donate to support your favorite animal residents, mingle with like-minded individuals, and take advantage of all the entertaining celebratory perks…except there’s no dress code! (Though if you want to don your favorite animal-print the day-of, we think it’d be paw-some!)

This year, we’ve set the ambitious goal of raising $21,000. Every dollar changes the life of an Exotic Pet Trade Survivor:

  • $7 can provide a week’s worth of daily vitamins, minerals, omegas and other nutraceuticals for a single animal
  • $25 can provide a diagnostic test to investigate a worrisome wound, skin imperfection, or possible blood toxin for a single animal
  • $50 can vaccinate an animal for an entire year
  • $75 can provided sedation and anesthesia for a single animal
  • $150 can provide a wellness physical exam for a single animal
  • $170 can provide a Toy Tire for animal enrichment

We hope you will join us April 4 on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages where we will be hosting contests and giveaways (prizes include paw-paintings, Big Cat Bucks gift cards, and more!), as well as updating you on our progress towards our goal.

For all the ways to get involved, please visit:

Donate Now To Help Us Help Them and mark your calendars to join us on April 4th!

Big Cat Public Safety Act Reintroduced

House of Representatives H.R. 1380

February 27, 2019

Turpentine Creek has a dream – that one day we will no longer be needed to save big cats from the exotic pet trade, abuse, abandonment, and neglect. We are very passionate about providing quality forever homes for all the animals that we rescue, but the truth of the matter is that they should never be put in that situation to begin with! The only way that this dream can come true is to pass laws throughout the country that protects big cats and that stops private ownership and the exploitation of young animals for profit in the cub-petting industry.

This week, we took another step towards achieving that dream. On February 26, 2019, the Big Cat Public Safety Act was introduced to the House of Representatives for the 116th Congressional session. The bill was introduced by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL-5) and was co-sponsored by 53 other House Reps from across the country. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources but has yet to be assigned to a sub-committee.

For that dream to become a reality, we need YOUR help. We need you to email your Congressional Representatives to let them know about The Big Cat Public Safety Act – H.R. 1380. You can visit our Advocacy page to send an email to your Representatives directly! It is straightforward, just enter your name and address and our system will find your representatives, we’ve even written example emails for your Reps! The emails are customized whether they are members of the House or Senate, also if they are past supporters, current co-sponsors, or uninformed about the Big Cat Public Safety Act.

As we get more information about the bill, new co-sponsors, sub-committees, and Senate information, we will be updating the advocacy page and forms. Please check back frequently for updates. It is only with your help that we can end the exotic pet trade in the USA. Please help us achieve our dreams and email your Representatives now.

Conservation At Home

Ten Ways You Can Help

February 20, 2019

To celebrate National Wildlife Day (February 22) our education team put together a list of ways you can help conserve wildlife from your own home!

Currently, dozens of species go extinct every day due to human-related activities. The United States alone has 1,300 species of plants, birds, fish, invertebrates, and mammals listed as endangered or threatened. Fortunately, you can help conserve species from your home and throughout your neighborhood.

  1. Learn more about endangered species in your area – Conservation doesn’t only occur internationality but can happen in your own backyard. Biodiversity is a vital aspect of the world. Arkansas has 32 species currently listed as endangered. U.S Fish and Wildlife Services has the full list available for you to look at. There are also lists of endangered species for your state. Knowing what the animal or plant looks like can help you know if they are in your areas and ways you can help protect them.
  2. Make your home wildlife friendly – Wildlife is everywhere! Human-animal conflicts have risen due to the increasing amount of houses being built in the wildlife habitat. Finding ways to coexist with wildlife can help lower those conflicts.
    1. Secure your garbage in cans or bins with locking lids.
    2. If you are able, feed pets indoors and lock pet doors at night to avoid unwanted guests.
    3. Use window stickers to help avoid bird collisions.
    4. Consider fencing your garden to deter animals from eating.
  3. Plant and Promote Native Species – Non-native plants are becoming more and more prevalent because they may be prettier or easier to grow but they are severely impacting native populations. Without native plants, animals are without proper food and shelter. Starting your own native garden you help promote native species and their survival. Not only are plants invasive but animals can be too. People will purchase a pet from a pet store and once they are no longer “fun” or new they will release the animal. Common examples of the animals that fall victim to this are: turtles, snakes, lizards, and birds. Invasive species are outcompeting native and may take over an entire area.
  4. Visit a national wildlife refuge, park, or other space – While habitats are being lost every day to accommodate more people, there are places that are protected to help animals not lose their homes. Protected areas keep native species in their native land without disturbing them. Volunteering at your local nature center or wildlife refuge can give you the ability to help first-hand with conservation efforts. Visit, ,, and for places to visit.
  5. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Believe it or not, the coca cola bottle and the water bottle sitting in your trash, can end up in the stomach of an ocean animal. It’s not just a couple of animals but 60% of seabirds and 100% of sea turtles have been found to have plastic in their system as they often mistake it as food. According to USA Today, “If everyone in America recycled one plastic bottle those materials could make more than 54 million t-shirts.” In the next 25 years, it has been estimated that there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish, by weight. You can help change that! By recycling, your used items can become a multitude of things. If you are unsure how to start recycling, contact your local recycling center for information on what they can accept. You can also try to use less plastic in your household.
    1. Tips for reducing plastic use:
      • purchase reusable stainless steel or glass straws
      • use reusable bags when shopping
      • use reusable bottle and mugs
      • pack your lunch in reusable containers and bags
      • opt to not use plasticware at home and when getting take out
  6. Never purchase products made from threatened or endangered species – Souvenir shopping can be a fun experience, but sometimes souvenirs are made from animal products without your knowledge. Many of the animals on the endangered species list are at risk because of poaching. Animals lose their life to become an item for people to buy. You can help lower the need for poaching by saying no to items using endangered animal parts. If you are not able to tell if the product has been sourced ethically it is best to avoid them.
    • Common items to avoid while shopping:
    • Coral
    • Tortoiseshells
    • Shells
    • Dried sea creatures
    • Art made from ivory, teeth and bones
    • Furs
  7. Do not buy exotic “pets” – Exotic animals are wild and are adapted to living in the wild without human intervention. These animals may have been taken from their natural habitat, away from others like them, and smuggled into the country. Once bought and sold as a pet they lose the fear of people and rely on them for food and shelter. The desire to own any exotic animal is often short-lived. Many times these animals are purchased as a baby but as they age they become aggressive and unmanageable and become no longer cute in the owner’s’ eyes.  Exotic animals require specialized diets and without it they will become malnourished and may develop illnesses and disease.If you are looking for a new pet, consider adopting a house cat or dog from a shelter.
  8. Protect wildlife habitat – Scientists say the best way to protect endangered species is to protect the places where they live. Without their habitat, they will have no home! Just like people, wildlife must have food, water, shelter, and space to survive. Even without one of their needs the animal has a smaller chance of survival. Unfortunately, because of the need for more space for the growing population, people are affecting the rate of habitats being lost. Human developments such as logging, oil and gas drilling, and agriculture growth have all contributed to habitat loss. Protecting habitats can come in many different forms. From preserving your own backyard to donating to conservation projects you can help out!
  9. Become an Eco-Tourist – Ecotourism is a rapidly growing industry that is not only working towards keeping the ecosystem intact but helps produce economic benefits for local communities. Becoming a conscious traveler can help save thousands of species from extinction. Which life do you think animals enjoy: being trained to do trick for the entertainment of people or roaming around their natural environment. Animals would not naturally walk on a ball (bear) or stand on their back legs (elephants). Ecotourism takes people to see animals living their every day and you get to witness them peaceful and without worry. Because people are paying the see the animal from a distance in their natural world, these animals are more likely to be protected. If you are thinking of taking a vacation soon, Green Global Travel has ways to plan to become more responsible when traveling.
  10. Education – Education is the key to promoting conservation. The great thing about education is that you do not have to be in the education field. You can educate through social media and by talking to people. By talking to others, you can raise awareness for conserving species. When talking to others about ways to help, you can send them to this page or talk about these ten ways to help right from your house!


For more information, visit:

“Habitat Loss.” National Wildlife Federation.

“Impact of habitat loss on species.” World Wildlife Fund.

“Plastics in the Ocean.” Ocean conservancy.

“Palm Oil Crisis.” Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

“Smart souvenir shopping.” The Wildlife Trusts.

“Invasive plants have a much bigger impact than we imagine.” The Conservation.

Post Written By Education Intern Abby Hickam 

Tigers in Backyards

Tiger Found In Abandoned Home In Texas

February 13, 2019

What do you picture when you hear the word tiger? Most of the time people will place the tiger in the overgrowth of a forest in Asia, and maybe it’s even stalking its prey waiting for the right moment to attack. There are more than 16,000 tigers in the world, but unfortunately, only 3,800 fit this picture. The rest are in captivity.

The United States does not have a federal law prohibiting ownership of these wild animals, making each state decide their law. The recent discovery of a female tiger in an abandoned house in Houston, TX shows just how severe the problem currently is. According to news reports, the tiger was found in the garage of a vacant house, cramped in a cage, secured only by a screwdriver and a nylon strap. Luckily, this survivor will spend the remainder of her life at a true sanctuary in Texas. The sanctuary is GFAS accredited (much like Turpentine Creek) and a fellow member of the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance.

This small cage was Sadie’s home until TCWR rescued her.

Sadly, this is not an uncommon situation. Many people purchase tiger cubs with the intention of having them as pets. As they grow, the owners no longer want them because of the amount of work it requires. Once it reaches this point, the tiger may be abandoned, dropped off at roadside zoos, or go missing. Some animals that call Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge home were previous pets that the owner could no longer take care of due to life situations or they were to “wild”. Sadie, a playful tiger came to us after her owner divorced. Upon arrival, we found Sadie living in a dilapidated cage in her owner’s backyard.

Current Laws

Because of the lack of federal laws, depending on which state you reside in, your neighbor could own a tiger as a pet. The state of Texas alone has more tigers living in backyards than in the wild. The state allows ownership of dangerous, exotic animals once it has been registered by proper authorities. Four states have no laws banning dangerous felines in any capacity: North Carolina, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Alabama.

Creating the change for these big cats takes time, patience, and a lot of persistence. The Big Cat Public Safety Act is that change. This bill addresses a number of issues big cats face.

  • Require animals to be registered.
  • Restricts public interaction with animals, reducing the number of injuries and deaths caused by adult big cats. It would also stop cub petting.
  • Unregulated breeding would be stopped, helping prevent the overpopulation of captive tigers in the United States.
  • End the buying, selling, and trading of big cats putting an end to the big cat exotic animal trade and stop future private ownership.

The past four Congressional sessions included the introduced Big Cat Public Safety Act. It is going into the 5th session. Once reintroduced, we will let you know. In the meantime, you can tell others about this bill and the importance of it getting passed.

To learn more about this bill and how you can help, visit our Advocacy Pages

Post Written By Education Intern Abby Hickam 

Animals Used For Entertainment

Stopping The Abuse – Circuses, Acting, and Magic Shows

February 6, 2019

To make Thurston “safer” while being used for a magic show, his original owners filed down his canines and declawed him.

Imagine your favorite wild animal in its natural habitat. Do you picture them riding bicycles, standing on their heads, balancing on balls, or jumping through rings of fire? Exotic animals are constantly being used for entertainment purposes and have been prevalent in our culture for over 150 years. As a multi-billion dollar industry, many people who watch performances with wild animals do not know the reality of what goes on behind the scenes.

In the entertainment business animals are subjected to:

  • Confinement
  • Poor medical care
  • Mistreatment/Punishment
  • Inability to be free

The Truth Behind the Curtain

Savannah was reportedly an animal actress for the movie “Second Hand Lions” after she was no longer needed as a show lion she was ‘retired’ to a breeding facility. Luckily, she was rescued by TCWR.

Travel circuses are on the road for up to 11 months of the year. The animals spend between 75% to 99% of their time in cramped cages in the back of trailers, on boxcars, and trucks. They lack access to basic necessities such as food, water, and veterinary care. Forced to eat, sleep, urinate, and defecate in the same confined space, they can develop physical and psychological damage. If an animal is to become sick or injured, they will face a long journey back to the circus’ permanent facility to recover, and often die of their illness.

Animals are punished with extreme “discipline”. This discipline is also used for training and can be in forms of whipping, hitting, poking, and shocking with electrical prods.  The popular grin monkeys are trained to do in movies and television is actually a sign of fear.

Many times the animals are torn away from their mothers as infants and are forced into training. This puts not only physical stress on the young, but the mothers are continually bred to provide more props.

What happened when the animals are too big to be used in entertainment? Since they have been deprived of using their natural behaviors, they can never be released into their native habitat. They may be dumped at roadside zoos and other facilities where they are kept in small cages or solitary confinement, making room for younger and more agile entertainers. Sometimes the animals are sold to laboratories, canned hunting facilities, sold for parts, or even to private individuals as pets.

How can you help?

When Elvis refused to be a show cat he was turned over to TCWR.

Just say NO! Avoid watching movies or television shows that exploit the use of wild animals. If a circus is using a wild animal in their show, do not go to it. There are plenty of animal-free circuses around the world that are enjoyable to watch without harming and abusing wild animals. You can go to these websites to see which circuses are animal free!

By: Abby Hickam – Education Intern

The Oklahoma Six

TCWR Saves Six Tigers

January 24, 2019

Last week, seven team members from Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge made the 712-mile round trip to pick up six tigers from a closing facility in Oklahoma. The owner of the facility had lost his lease on the property after being harassed by a group of individuals. He reached out to Turpentine Creek on Monday, and by Wednesday we were on the road to rescue.

All six tigers had once been part of the cub petting pay-to-play scheme and were scheduled to be euthanized after they could no longer make a profit. The owner of the facility rescued them from that fate, but since he was losing the lease on his land, he needed to find them a new home. Their ages range from 16-months-old to 4-years-old.

All six tigers were located in two enclosures on the property; the youngest two, Floyd and Tigger, living in one habitat and the other four, Robbie, Frankie, Tommy, and Diesel, residing in the other. It was quickly evident that all of the tigers were overweight but one, Diesel, was seriously ill. Three of the tigers quickly loaded into their transport cages, but the other three (Robbie, Frankie, and Diesel) needed to be sedated.

It took nearly six hours (from 8 am until 1:45 pm) to load up the six cats; Diesel was last. He was lethargic and barely moved the entire time we were rounding up his friends. Once we had him sedated, we took blood so that we could figure out what was causing his illness as quickly as possible.

Seven hours later, the team arrived back at the Refuge. Our Veterinarian, Dr. Kellyn Sweeley, met us and immediately checked over the newest TCWR residents. She then took the blood to the vet hospital to run it and find out what was happening with Diesel.

The following morning, Floyd, Tigger, Robbie, Frankie, and Tommie were let into their new habitats, while Diesel was taken to a recovery enclosure at the vet hospital. Dr. Kellyn found that Diesel had an elevated white blood cell count and an extremely low red blood cell count. She also saw signs of a tick-borne blood pathogen. She prescribed antibiotics and steroids to help Diesel battle his illness.

Over the weekend, the team kept a very close eye on Diesel’s progress. By Monday, Diesel had begun to move around more, sitting up and chuffing softly to the animal care team. We had hope that the beautiful orange tiger was on the road to recovery. Sadly, when we sedated him to test his blood again and check on the progress, the test revealed that instead of improving, his white blood cell count had risen further and his red blood cell count had dropped to dangerous levels. After discussing options, our vet advised that it was time to end Diesel’s suffering and let him pass on.

Robbie, Tommie, and Frankie quickly begun to settle into their new life at the Refuge. They live in a newly rebuilt habitat at the end of the tour loop. The three were also put on a diet to help reduce their weight.

Tigger quickly adjusted to his new habitat, next to the Siberian Suite and Tree House, but his roommate, Floyd, is still settling in and only comes out for short periods of time before returning to his den. We are watching Floyd closely since he had previously been diagnosed with severe metabolic bone disease.

Once the weather warms up, we plan to sedate all five tigers and give them a thorough examination along with blood tests to make sure that they do not also have the blood pathogen that Diesel died from. Since big cats cannot regulate their body temperature when sedated, it is very dangerous to sedate them when the temperature is below 50 degrees. Until we can examine them, we are watching them all closely for symptoms of the blood pathogen.

Although we try very hard, the reality is that we cannot always arrive in time to save everyone. We were too late to save Diesel’s life. So many animals are not reached in time and fall victim to the heartless Exotic Pet Trade and Cub Petting industries. This is why we educate and advocate to protect big cats. Please be the voice for the voiceless. It is up to YOU to put an end to the Exotic Pet Trade, reach out to your congressmen and tell them that this has to END. Support true sanctuaries, donate to help us continue to help them. The fight isn’t over yet, continue to fight, in memory of Diesel and all the other victims of Cub Petting. Please donate today to help us care for these five new rescues as well as all the other animals that call the Refuge home.

Making Changes To Help Environment

Turpentine Creek’s “No Plastic Bag” Initiative

January 17, 2019

Turpentine Creek has taken the pledge to reduce our plastic waste. Our mission at the refuge is to rescue abandoned, abused and unwanted big cats, but we also believe it is important to be pro-active in many areas of conservation and environmentalism. In an effort to help with the overwhelming problem of plastics in the environment, we have launched a “No Plastic Bag” initiative for our gift shops.

Last year, we began to roll out the program by offering reusable TCWR totes as a choice. This year, we will no longer carry plastic bags at all. You can join TCWR in making the world a healthier place by joining our “No Plastic Bag” initiative and get your own reusable TCWR tote today! Our beautiful, reusable bags that will be available for an additional $2 donation to the refuge.

Did you know:

  • The average American family takes home almost 1500 plastic shopping bags a year
  • Only approximately 1% of plastic bags are returned for recycling
  • At least 600 different animal species have been affected by plastic pollution in the ocean
  • Plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes, but it takes at least 500 years for it to degrade in a landfill
  • 80% of all plastic in the ocean comes from land
  • There is currently 19 BILLION pounds of garbage in the ocean
  • By 2050 it is estimated there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish
  • If we do not take action, plastic pollution is predicted to double by 2025

Problem: The problem with plastics is that they do not biodegrade, once they are made they will never leave the planet. Recycling only downgrades materials, and cannot constantly be reused. Marine life is heavily affected by plastics, causing them to either eat plastic and not be able to pass it, or become entangled. One in three endangered leatherback turtles has been found to have died due to consuming plastic. Thousands of marine life dependent on the ocean die every day due to our trash. Plastics break down over time, absorbing into marine life and also ending up on our dinner plates.

Solution: Reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse, and rethink the amount of plastic you consume. Avoid using single-use plastics as much as possible and use re-usable items such as water bottles, food containers, shopping bags, toothbrushes, straws, coffee cups, non-synthetic clothing etc. Properly dispose of your trash, ensuring that recyclable materials do not end up in a landfill.

Individual choices DO matter, if we all make changes now, we can greatly decrease the amount of harm that our waste does to the planet. Empower others around you to make changes in their daily lives to help the environment.

“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.”-Albert Einstein

Video Year In Review

2018 was Purrfect!

January 11, 2019

Last year was a wild ride! We had so much to celebrate- building our new bear habitat, updating night houses, welcoming new animal residents, and ringing in birthdays and cheering on milestones for those already in our care. We hope this video makes you smile as much as it did us. Thank you for sticking with us throughout 2018- here’s to 2019 and all it has in store!