Category Archives: News

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.

Brushes and Wine Painting with a Mission FUNdraiser next week!


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

If you have any questions or need further information, send an email to or call 479-876-8694.


Turpentine Creek doubles water storage capacity with new tank

new water tank

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.”


New arrival at Turpentine Creek


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.


The Tail of the Naked Tiger

Sierra shaved

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!