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.
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.
When was the last time you got in touch with your inner Picasso? On Tuesday, June 2, from 7 – 9 p.m., you’ll have your chance.
Come join friends and supporters of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge at Noodles Italian Kitchen in Fayetteville for an evening of fun, painting your own version of our lion Thor.
Turpentine Creek’s Brushes and Wine Painting with a Mission FUNdraiser will provide you with hands-on, step by step instruction from their talented artists. Absolutely no experience is required.
“When we did this in April, it went so well we wanted to do another one,” said organizer Bonnie Glover. “We raised $595 for the Refuge, and 34 people created their own works of art.”
Noodles Italian Kitchen is located at 3748 Mall Ave. in Fayetteville. Tickets are $35 and must be purchased later than 12 noon on June 1 in advance of the event. Space is limited.
A portion of ticket sales for this fundraiser will go directly to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. Discount coupons are not valid for this event.
Food and drinks available for purchase at Noodles Italian Kitchen and not included in event ticket price.
To get your tickets, go to http://www.brushesandwine.com/events/turpentine-creek-fundraiser-thor
If you have any questions or need further information, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 479-876-8694.
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has been growing steadily for many years, and with each expansion, the need is always there to improve the refuge’s infrastructure as well.
That just happened again, with the acquisition of a 6,500 gallon water tank.
“Adding a new water tank may not sound quite as exciting as rescuing a tiger,” says Turpentine Creek Vice-President Scott Smith, “but it’s those rescues – for example our rescue in 2013 of 28 big cats from Mountainburg – that have led us to expand habitats, and in this case double our water capacity. We not only have all the habitats down at Rescue Ridge where we have to supply water, but Bam Bam’s pool is pretty big. So we’ve increased our water storage capacity to 13,000 gallons. It’s a good thing and makes a big difference here.”
Smith adds that while utility and infrastructure costs sometimes slip by in people’s estimations of what it takes to maintain a facility like TCWR, without maintaining and expanding all those factors, providing adequate care on all levels for the exotic big cat population would simply not be possible.
“You can only go forward or backward, and we are heading forward in our mission here,” said Smith. “We plan to keep doing this for a long, long time to come.”
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has just welcomed the newest member of its big cat family, only this one is medium sized: Pickles, an African Serval.
Pickles has come to us from Prairie Grove. Sadly, Pickles’ previous owner passed away suddenly only a few weeks ago, and his wife, moving into a new place, needed to find Pickles a new home as well.
“He got Pickles from a breeder in Florida in 2008,” she explained. “He was in the automotive business, and someone brought a baby bobcat to work, and so he decided to get one too. But something a little more exotic. So he got Pickles.”
Pickles is very affectionate, she says. “With my husband he was very loving and playful. With me, he’s a little bit bratty.”
She says that oddly enough, her husband had always said that anything ever happened to him, he would want Pickles to go to Turpentine Creek. “It’s just sad it had to work out that way.”
Like all new arrivals here, Pickles will go into quarantine for a little while, and then be introduced into her new habitat area, where she can be visited anytime.
Tigers do not make good pets. They are too big to handle and typically end up being abused one way or another by their owners.
One form of abuse many do not stop to consider, says Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge Curator Emily McCormack, is malnutrition.
“A case in point is Sierra,” she said. “We rescued her from Grapevine, Tex., in 1998. She’s 19, which is pretty old for a tiger. She had been raised on a diet of dog food, which has absolutely no nutritional value for a tiger. As a result, she has several health issues. She is our smallest tiger. Because her pelvic area never developed correctly, she can digest but not pass anything but boneless meat, which we then have to supplement with calcium and other vitamins to compensate.”
Last year, Sierra underwent surgery to relieve an intestinal blockage. “Basically she was constipated,” McCormack said. “For one thing, it was shedding season, and tigers shed a lot of hair. Just like a housecat, they get hairballs, and Sierra was unable to process and eliminate it. Her life was in danger, so we operated, despite her age.” She recovered.
Two weeks ago, Sierra underwent a second surgery. Same problem as the first time.
“We tried everything else we could first,” McCormack says. “Have you ever given a tiger an enema? Anyway, that didn’t work, but the surgery went well.”
Although the surgery successfully cleared that blockage, over the next two weeks, the problem built up again.
As a last resort, and following a final (and successful) tiger enema, McCormack came up with a solution. “We decided to shave her,” she said. “No fur, no hairballs. So I got out the shears. Not all the way to the skin – we didn’t want her to get sunburnt! – but now every time a breeze blows, she jumps and looks around and sorta goes ‘Oh!’ From now on, she will have a date with the barber every May.”
For those wishing to see Sierra’s new ‘do, come on out to Turpentine Creek, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., 7 days a week!
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is making headlines again, and this time not just for its work taking care of abandoned lions, tigers, and bears. Last week two journalists from the Mountain Home newspaper the Baxter Bulletin paid a visit to Turpentine Creek. Their mission?
“Unique lodging in the region,” said staff reporter Josh Dooley. He and staff photographer Kevin Pieper spent an afternoon touring the refuge, but their focus was our overnight accommodations.
“The article and photo spread will be for the June/July issue of Living Well, a magazine we do at the Baxter Bulletin,” Dooley said. “We distribute it in doctor’s offices and other places where the public will get a chance to see what’s available in the area.”
In addition to the five Safari Lodges and the treehouse, TCWR offers two family-oriented bed and breakfast suites, as well as RV parking and camping spots.
“Our lodging just keeps growing and growing,” said Lodging Coordinator Lori Hartle. “And I’m sure this good coverage will get us some calls as well.”
For more information on lodging at Turpentine Creek, go to https://www.turpentinecreek.org/lodging-2. For details on Living Well magazine, go to http://archive.baxterbulletin.com/article/20140207/NEWS01/140207003/Check-out-newest-issue-Living-Well-magazine.
The Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge on-site veterinary hospital has come one step closer to reality. Accompanied by architects Terry and Janine McGuire and other members of the TCWR team, contractor Travis Hollaway spent an afternoon recently going over the area where the facility will be built.
The location for the hospital, between the main habitat area and Rescue Ridge, will make it an ideal setting for treating sick animals, rather than having to transport them to the vet, who is located between Berryville and Green Forest.
Now that funding has been completed for the building itself, it is necessary to equip it.
“To fully equip the facility will cost approximately $153,000,” says TCWR Curator Emily McCormack. “We have applied for a grant to cover that, but you never can be certain how that will work out. So we are going to be working to raise that money next.”
When complete, the hospital will include an x-ray/surgery, holding cages for recovery, an office, an enclosed garage/unloading area, a training/media area, and even a place for staffers to sleep if they need to stay with the animals overnight.
“There is a tremendous amount of red tape in making something like this happen,” says McCormack. “However, it will make such a big difference in the care we can extend to these big cats, lions, and bears. It can really stress them out to have to transport them miles away for treatments we haven’t been able to provide here. Now we will be able to, and that’s terrific.”
Construction on the new site is scheduled to begin this summer.
On Sunday, May 31, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge will celebrate its annual Carroll and Madison County Customer Appreciation Day. If you live in either Carroll or Madison counties, bring something that shows your address, an ID or a bill, and admission is absolutely free.
“We’re so grateful for the support our community gives us all year long, and this is just our way of saying thanks,” said TCWR President Tanya Smith. “We get people visiting from every corner of the globe, but sometimes people who live right here haven’t experienced Turpentine Creek. So this is your chance.”