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.

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.