Category Archives: News

Surgery – Bad Declaw Fix

First Surgery Performed at new Veterinary Hospital

Sept. 1, 2016


Izzy during surgery

On August 24th, TCWR preformed our first ever surgery using the new Jackson Memorial Veterinary Hospital. Our first patient, Izzy tiger, needed surgery on her front left paw to help fix a bad declaw. We live streamed the surgery to all our Facebook followers and plan to continue doing so for upcoming surgeries and other events that happen at Turpentine Creek.

The surgery went well, Izzy had claw fragments, claw sheaths, and a deformed bone removed from three of her toes. Although the surgery took longer than expected, it went well and after two hours our veterinarian was finished.

We were excited to test out all the new equipment our gracious supporters helped us purchase. We even used our new scale to find out that Izzy weighed 271 pounds! And she is one of the smaller sized tigers at our refuge. We also utilized the IDEXX blood machine to test her blood, her blood test came back clean and let us know that other than her paw she was perfectly healthy.

Izzy has spent the last few days recovering in her night house. We made sure she had antibiotics and pain medicine to keep infections and pain away. After a week she is eager to get back out and play in her habitat. Soon she will be running around in the grass like a cub again.


Izzy 1 week after surgery

The local media was just as excited about our vet hospital grand opening and first surgery as we were. Media outlets covered both events and we were happy to answer any questions they had. Both the grand opening and the first surgeries were milestones in the history of Turpentine Creek.

We thank all our supporters for helping us reach this goal and look forward to a bright future with your continued support.

Habitat Update

Big Changes Happening on the Lodging Habitat

August 26, 2016

untitled-6898We are always progressing at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. Construction is a constant way of life at the refuge. We build bigger and better habitats for our animals, improve old habitats, rebuild habitats, build benches, we build and build and build.

Our most recent project involved a major upgrade to our habitats, raising the fence height and fixing old habitats. This project is nearly completed after over a year of hard work.

The rebuild included the habitats that were located next to our lodging options. This was a very BIG part of the project. We began the update/upgrade/rebuild of the lodging habitat in June, with hopes it would be a quick update and move on. But the project has seen some delays. Inclement weather, new rescues, other habitat needs, and the vet hospital grand opening has caused some significant delays this rebuild.

We are so VERY close to finishing this habitat… days away from completing welding and then we have to finish painting it and getting the interior ready for the new inhabitant(s). Soon we will be moving animal(s) back into the lodging habitats.

Past lodging guests will notice a BIG difference in this lodging habitat, what used to be three habitats (Miss Emmy, Thor, Donna and Pebbles) will now be one BIG habitat. We made the choice to combine habitats because we want our animals to have a lot of space to run and play. So, with some hard work and creativity, the three old habitats have become one big, beautiful, grassy habitat.

untitled-6908We have knocked down two of the three dens, that used to be located in the area, to accomplish this habitat combination, and we also created a walking path between to two largest habitats.

We are still deciding on what animal(s) will call this habitat home once construction is complete. When it comes time to move an animal(s) into the habitat Emily McCormack, our animal curator, will evaluate each animal’s needs and choose the animal(s) that needs the habitat most. Many of our animals are sharing habitats, alternating days of habitat use. Moving an animal from one of those ‘double’ habitats will give two (or two sets of) animals the chance to enjoy a habitat daily.

We are sorry for the inconvenience to our lodging guests, but this update was required for the safety of our animals. No matter what room you are staying in, you can still hear the animals at night and view the animals throughout the day. Our animals safety and happiness is our biggest priority.

Rescue Report Update

Rescue Progress Report

July 29, 2016

Bobby –

Bobby-2715Bobby the Bobcat was rescued from the state of Ohio in January. Bobby is a 17-year-old blind bobcat. When he first arrived he was put in the other half of Bowden the Serval’s habitat. They swapped days in the habitat. At first, Bobby was very shy, but as he got used to the sounds and smells around him he started to venture out into his habitat more often. On July 25th, we decided to move him and introduce him to Boo Boo, our other senior bobcat. Both Boo Boo and Bobby had spent most of their lives living with other bobcats. Our hope is that by introducing the two older bobcats, Bobby will grow more confident in his surroundings and socialize a bit more. The introduction went well. Bobby and Boo Boo sniffed each other and then went about their day, no growling was heard so they seemed to have accepted each other’s company.

Joy –

joy-6353Joy Coyote was given to Turpentine Creek in June, by a wildlife rehabilitator who believed that the melanistic Coyote would not be able to return to the wild. She had been rejected by her mother due to her coloring and being a sickly runt. Through the care of the rehabilitator, she was returned to health and given to Turpentine Creek. Joy has been given a clean bill of health by our veterinarian and has received 2 of her 3 sets of vaccinations. Once she receives her final set of vaccinations we plan to move her up from Rescue Ridge into the visitor area. She is still very wary of humans. Staff sees her exploring her current night house often, and she loves to dig in the dirt, but if someone approaches her habitat she quickly runs and hides in her den. Only time will tell if she becomes comfortable enough with the staff and interns to let us approach her habitat without running away.

Giselle –

Giselle-7218Giselle the Serval was rescued in July. A woman, who is a pet food consultant with many veterinarians, noticed a baby Serval practically living at one of her client’s clinics. The Serval was front declawed and spayed by her owners. The original owners had 3 children under the age of 10 and through a series of unknown events Giselle broke one of her back legs. Finally, the woman approached the vet to see if the owners would relinquish the Serval to her. She is a supporter of Turpentine Creek and knew that if she could not care for the Serval then we could. The owners agreed to give up Giselle and within a week the woman contacted Turpentine Creek to see if we had space for Giselle. Upon arrival at Turpentine Creek, Giselle was housed at Rescue Ridge for a quarantine period. On July 25th, Giselle was moved up to the other half of Bowden the Serval’s habitat. She loves playing on the grass and climbing all over the habitat. The eventual goal is to introduce Bowden and Giselle so that they can both enjoy the habitat on a daily basis. For now, Giselle and Bowden alternate days while the two servals get to know each other’s scent. Giselle is very curious about Bowden but Bowden is still unsure about Giselle.

All three Rescues are doing well and settling into the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge Family. We are glad that we can help take care of these three amazing animals. All three rescues are still in need of Adoptors. It is only through your support and help that we can continue to rescue animals in need. Click here to learn more about our adoption program.

Old Habitats Get New Life

Oldest Habitats Get Completely Rebuilt

April 26, 2016

About a month ago we began a complete rebuild of our two oldest habitats. These habitats had served their purpose but with age comes deterioration and new knowledge on better ways to build safer habitats.

denforindia_3This double rebuild is one of the last steps on a complete renovation of our habitats. Late last year we began the task of updating and upgrading all of our habitats. New paint, fixing fences, changing door positions, and other various upgrades were done to the majority of our habitats. It took a lot of work and this update/upgrade project was definitely needed. Thanks to our amazing supporters we were able to get the work done quickly.

For the past few weeks, we have been rebuilding the fence portion of the habitat. We drove new posts, hung new fencing, and created new doors. From the start of the project, it was evident that not only did the fencing need replaced but the old dens needed to be replaced too. So we called in the “heavy machinery” to knock the old ones down. Late last week we were excited to drop the new night houses in place for the two habitats. This is one of the final steps of the rebuild and soon we will be able to release the tigers back into their habitats.

We only have a few habitats left to visit for some updates/upgrades and then Turpentine Creek will look like new! We have been working hard all fall, winter, and spring to get all the construction done on our old habitats. Once this project is completed, we can begin working on building new habitats in what used to be the compound area! We plan to build big, grassy habitats in the area that used to be filled with dozens and dozens of small cages. Those cages had served their purpose, to quickly save animals lives, but now we are focusing on building bigger and better habitats for all the animals we care for.

We do, however, need to think of a new name for the old “compound” area since it is no longer a compound.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us reach our goal!

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday Final Report

Wow, Giving Tuesday showed us how dedicated our supporters are! This year we set a really high goal, $158,000 which is approximately what it costs to run Turpentine Creek for one month. Although we did not meet that goal we did have an amazing day full of wonderful comments and generous donations!

Through Facebook, Twitter, Razoo, call in donations, mail in donations, and wonderful in-person donors we hit a remarkable $17,829 raised ($11,467 on just Dec. 1st). It was amazing to see our supporters rallying behind us and helping us bring in the money needed to see us through the end of the year.


Mickey Gilley Benefit Concert in Branson, MO on Dec. 1st 2015.

Beyond just our online efforts Mickey Gilley hosted a benefit concert to help us raise funds. By the end of the night through ticket purchases, donations, and a wonderful donation by Mickey Gilley himself we raised an additional $5,000 from that concert alone, bringing our grand total up to $22,829!

What an amazing team we have behind us! Most of the donations that made up this total were less than $50! That means hundreds of people showed their support and stood behind Turpentine Creek and our mission to save big cats.

Thank you everyone for your support! You are all amazing people. Without you we wouldn’t be able to do what we do and rescue these wonderful animals.

Building New Habitat Benches

Changing up the game, building durable benches in our habitats. 

Trisha Scott took pieces of Chuff, Abigail, and Athena’s old bench and created artwork from it.

The staff here at Turpentine Creek is always looking for ways to improve our animals’ habitats. We try to give our cats, bears, monkey, and coati, plenty of things to entertain them and make their lives as enjoyable as possible in captivity.

One thing that we have found that our cats love is their habitat bench. Up until this point, we have build habitat benches out of old telephone poles and wood slats. This has made building habitat benches affordable and quick, but the cats really enjoy using the benches as scratching posts. Because of this we have to fix or replace benches often, which in the long run does not save us money or time.

Recently, when replacing Tsavo, Chuff, Abigail, and Athena’s bench, we decided to use a new design, where the frame of the bench was made of metal and the top would be made of wood, which could easily be switched out as needed. This design is more cost effective in the long run. It costs us more money and time to initially build, but it will last for a very long time with only minimal maintenance, such as repainting to prevent rust and switching out the 2×4 boards every few months.

With this shift we have decided that we will now replace all our habitat benches with three tiered metal benches. This gives the cats extra shade and satisfies their need to be higher to look out over their ‘territory’.

Education-9385Since we are changing building material and making taller benches, we need to raise bench donation prices. If someone wants to donate a bench for a habitat it will now cost $1,000 per bench. Again, these benches are better since once a bench is built, it will be built forever.

We have 26 upper habitat benches to replace, plus 20 habitats in rescue ridge that will eventually need new benches. This will take time and money, but in the long run it will be better for the cats, providing additional shade and enrichment opportunities, and our staff, saving time, and our supporters, saving money in the long run.

Compound Crash Completed

The compound is nothing but dust and memories now. We have done it, the compound has been crashed!

We have demolished all the old “compound” area and all of our animals are in spacious, grassy habitats!12141539_10153014370557186_1370045202358187998_n

The old habitats served their purpose, saving hundreds of animals lives, but we no longer need them. All of our animals are now in quarter to half acre habitats. They have plenty of room to roam and enjoy their lives, experiencing their own little taste of freedom. All animals that we rescue from here on out will go directly into a habitat.

Demolition started Sept. 17th. All that is left standing is the green vet clinic, and that too will soon be nothing more than a memory.

To celebrate this accomplishment we will be having a “Compound Crashing Celebration” on Nov. 14th, 2015. So please join us while we celebrate this milestone and the bright future ahead of us for all the animals that we rescue.

Flip For Freedom!


Wednesday was a great day to be a coatimundi. For years, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge’s sole coati, Flip, has been dwelling in a concrete habitat behind the gift shop in the old compound area, bringing smiles to the faces of every visitor to the refuge.

But that changed Wednesday, when Flip was moved into her own grassy habitat for the first time. The area, next to the main office and adjacent to the Siberian and Bengal suites, has fencing that goes a foot into the ground, to prevent her digging out.

“We used to give her tubsful of dirt to dig in, earthworms to find, in her old enclosure,” says Curator Emily McCormack. “Coatis love to dig for worms. Now she can do it for real.”

Coatis are cousins to the raccoon family and are native to South America, Central America, and south-western North America. They are omnivores, eating both meat and plants. In the wild, they eat fruits, berries, insects, birds, eggs, lizards, and even snakes and small mammals like mice and squirrels. They use their long, probe-like nose for searching through leaves, crevices, and holes to find their favorite foods. The long claws on their feet are good for tearing apart rotting logs.

“In 2009, we received an email from a man representing a facility formally open to the public in Branson,” McCormack says. “Because of some problems, they had to part with seven big cats, a black bear, and a coatimundi – Flip — to be eligible to reopen to the public. So she came to us. In Branson, she was forced to exist in what was intended as a reptile habitat, concrete and glass. We were glad to get her out of there, and we’re even happier now to give her her own big grassy habitat.”

Flip seems to agree.

Big cats work out differences, share common ground

Sheba & Suli

As Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge continues to change and grow, different habitat spaces open and the big cats are moved around. When possible, they share spaces together. So recently, TCWR staff introduced Sheba, a cougar who came here in 2007 and has been on concrete ever since, into the habitat shared by Suli and Luna, who are both older females who have been sharing the same space for quite some time.

“They all came in as single females, but we’ve been really successful with cougar introductions,” said TCWR Curator Emily McCormack. “Suli has always been the dominant one between her and Luna, so we were interested in how Sheba would relate to her.”

McCormack says on introduction, Suli immediately approached Sheba. “They ‘talked,’” she said. “Ears back, hissing, some batting at each other with their paws – they were all de-clawed before they came to Turpentine Creek, otherwise we wouldn’t put them together. Then Luna came over and it was the same story. They met and eventually all went back to their dens. Interestingly, though, Sheba, the new girl, is now the dominant one. The others kow-towed to her.”

Meanwhile, across the refuge, two African Servals have been playing meet ‘n greet. Bowden, a male Serval from St. Louis who has been at Turpentine Creek since 2001, has been getting to know the newest arrival, Pickles, a female who was recently brought to the refuge from Prairie Grove, Arkansas.

“So far Bowden and Pickles have been on two ‘dates,’” McCormack said. “We are getting them used to each other, so we put Pickles in her big pet carrier up alongside Bowden’s cage, to see how they’d react. They both hissed at each other, as usual, but then Bowden looked like he wanted to play. Pickles sort of looked past him and seemed to be paying more attention to all Bowden’s toys than to Bowden himself! She has a great personality. They both seemed very comfortable.

McCormack said their second ‘date’ went as well as well as the first, if not better. “Bowden walked right over to Pickles’ cage to say hi. They didn’t even have their ears back. They just laid down by each other chillin’ out.”

She says the two Servals will start sharing the same habitat within a few days.