In the past TCWR used to do some things differently, why did you change?
As a true sanctuary, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is ALWAYS working to continually improve how we care for our animals so that they can live the best lives possible. The scientific community is continually researching the best practices to care for captive animals. Turpentine Creek is leading the 'pride' to make sure our animals get the best care possible. YES, we did things differently in the past, but as soon as we are aware of different and better ways to care for our animals we adjust our practices. We continue to learn and change, making sure the animals that call Turpentine Creek home can enjoy the rest of their lives with us.
Can we pet the animals?
No, we are a hands-off facility. No one handles the animals unless they are sedated for medical procedures.
Do you breed your animals?
No, as a rescue we feel it is our duty to help animals in need instead of contributing to the over population of captive big cats.
Can we play with a cub?
No, We do not allow interaction with any of our animals, no matter their age. It is not good to handle the animals, they are large, wild animals and could injure someone. We strongly discourage cub petting and handling because it is detrimental to the health of the young cub and it just perpetuates the exotic pet trade and the mistreatment of big cats in captivity. To make them 'tame' enough to be handled they have to be removed from their mother immediately after birth... which gives them weak immune systems and then they are passed around. Most of them get very ill due to this. Baby animals belong with their parents, just like human babies.
When is the best time of year to visit?
Any time of year can be a fun time to visit. The animals are typically the most active in the spring and fall, although some animals like the winter best while others like the summer. In the peak of the summer or the coldest part of winter many animals will opt to stay out of sight, so just keep in mind, if you don't want to be out they probably won't be either.
What does my regular admission cover?
Admission covers entry into the Refuge for the day. This includes your guided tour (approximately 1 hours), leisure time in the Discovery Area, and any additional Educational Activities you wish to participate in.
What does admission go to?
Admission cost helps us care for the animals that call TCWR home. With approximately 100 animals that need daily care, it costs a lot of money to provide them with what they need. Your admissions help us feed, care for, house, and provide medical care for our animals.
Do you ever close because of bad weather?
Yes, for the safety of our team and animals we will close during certain weather situations. If it is just rainy or windy we will most likely NOT be closed, but during lightning storms, severe weather warnings, and violent acts of nature we will close to keep our team, animals, and visitors safe. Please watch our social media outlets for closing announcements.
Do you allow service animals in the tour areas?
Service animals are allowed in the tour areas as long as they are not acting in a disruptive manner, are kept under control at all times, and are accompanied by their handler at all times. We do not allow Comfort, Therapy, Emotional Support, or Companion animals in the tour area. We honor the ADA rules about service animals. Comfort, Therapy, Emotional Support, and Companion animals are not protected under ADA regulations. For the safety of our animals and your animals we request that Comfort, Therapy, Emotional Support, and Companion animals be left at home or at your hotel. We reserve the right to ask any individual to leave if their animal is being disruptive or upsetting our animals.
Can I bring my pet?
We do not allow pets around the animals. Please do not bring your pets with you to the refuge. Please do not leave your pet in your car during the summer, the temperature in your car can be twice as hot as the outside air. Please leave your pets at home or at your hotel if you come to visit.
How much time should I plan to spend at the refuge?
Time spent at the refuge can vary. Walking tours take approximately 45 - 60 minutes, while trolley tours take 30 - 45 minutes. We also have a discovery area for our visitors to explore, which most people typically spend about 45+ minutes enjoying. Minimal recommended time spent at the refuge is approximately 2 hours.
What is a true sanctuary?
A true sanctuary is a rescue facility that does not buy, sell, breed, or trade any animal. Sanctuaries are a "place of refuge or safety", providing lifetime care for all the animals rescued. Sanctuaries should also not have any direct contact with the animals unless the animal is sedated for medical procedures.
What kind of animals do you rescue?
Our focus is rescuing big cats but we have rescued other types of animals that call our refuge home. Currently, we have tigers, lions, cougars, leopards, a jaguar, bobcats, African Servals, Black Bears, Brown Bears, a white-nosed Coatimundi, and a hyena.
Why can't they be released back into the wild?
Big cats born in captivity are not eligible for release into the wild. Inbreeding, hand-rearing, health issues, and other factors make it impossible for our rescued animals to survive in the wild. Some of our animals are native (bobcats, bears, cougars) but again if they were born in captivity they cannot be released into the wild. The few rescues we have that were wild born cannot be released into the wild due to state laws and regulations.
When are the animals most active?
Different animals are active at different times. Big cats tend to be most active first thing in the morning and towards the end of the day. This is especially true during the hot seasons. We recommend that during the summer visitors try to come early in the morning or towards the end of the day. Bears are active throughout the day during the warmer months but might not be active at all during the cooler months. We NEVER force our animals to be active, we provide them plenty of shade to enjoy when it is warm, and warm spaces when it is cold. We respect their choice to enjoy the sunny spots or enjoy their dens.
Do you still offer Feeding time tours?
No, we no longer do a single feeding time. Now that all our animals are in big, spacious, habitats it is difficult to do it all at once. Also, it can be stressful for the animals and as a rescue it is our duty to minimize stressful situations for our animal residents.
Why do we need to go on a guided tour?
Approximately half of our animals live in the guided tour area. If you do not take a guided-tour you aren't seeing all the animals that you could be. Guided tours allow us to help educate our visitors about the histories of our animals and the plight of big cats in captivity. Also, for us to be GFAS Accredited we are required to do guided tours.
Can we see all of your animals?
Although the majority of our animals live in our discovery area or our guided-tour path we do have some animals that live at rescue ridge, which can only be viewed during one of our behind the scenes exclusive tours. The animals that live at rescue ridge are older or do not like large crowds, this is why we limit access to this area.
What happens if I show up after the last tour leaves?
Our last tour leaves at 4 PM in the summer and 3 PM in the winter. There is no admittance into the Refuge after the final tour leaves.
What is Behavioral Training?
Our Behavioral Training Program utilizes reward-based operant conditioning to encourage certain basic behaviors in our animals that we can use to perform visual health inspections without causing unnecessary stress on them. The zoo and sanctuary communities have been integrating reward-based training programs into their daily care routines to help make their animals' lives as stress free as possible. Our ultimate goal is to be able to care for our animals without having to sedate them unless absolutely necessary. Our Behavioral Training Program is not a requirement, our animals can decide if they wish to participate or not, we never force our animals to participate. Behavioral training might not happen every day. If the weather is bad or if other projects/training takes priority, behavioral training might be canceled for the day.
Do you have photo opportunities with animals?
No, as a hands-off facility we do not allow the handling of any age animal. We do not encourage hands-on interaction with wild animals. We do allow people to take photos of our animals, but there will always be at least one fence between the camera and our animals.
Can we purchase Whiskers? Teeth? Claws?
No, it is illegal to sell any part of a big cat, even if it is naturally lost/shed. Our goal is to protect these animals and the exotic animal part trade is a large factor in why big cats, like tigers, are being poached in the wild.
Do you have any cubs?
No, we are a non-breeding facility. On occasion we will rescue younger animals but most of the time we aren't called in to rescue young animals.
What kind of animals do you rescue?
We mainly rescue exotic big cats and other wild felines, on occasion we do have room for bears. Rarely do we rescue other types of animals. The reason we don't rescue other types of animals is because of different housing requirements for different species of animals. We are not equipped to rescue other types of animals typically.
Do you declaw/defang your animals?
No, declawing/defanging of animals is cruel and can be detrimental to the health of our animals. We do have some animals that were declawed/defanged by their previous owners and we keep a close eye on their health but we do not support declawing or defanging of big cats or bears.
Why do the animals have cement sections of their enclosures?
These night house areas are built for the safety of our animals and staff. These areas are specifically designed to protect our animals from dangerous weather situations, allow for easy sanitation for their eating area, and allow us to secure the animals when we need to enter their habitats to clean them. These areas are only temporary holding areas, all of our animals have access to habitats, where they spend the majority of their time.
Why don't all the animals have in ground pools?
As of May 2021, we are working to put in-ground pools in all habitats! Each pool costs $5,000 to build. You can help us with this project by sponsoring an entire pool (please email email@example.com) or by making a partial donation. For partial donations, please go to https://www.turpentinecreek.org/donate/ & specify "pool fund” in the notes so we know where to designate your contribution. Thank you in advance!
Do you have a veterinarian on staff?
Yes! We have a Veterinarian on staff. Dr. Kellyn Sweeley works part time at the refuge.
Is there any place to eat at Turpentine Creek?
We have a small selection of snacks in the gift shops, and our concession stand (serving chips, hot dogs, nachos, ice cream, etc.) is open seasonally. You are welcome to bring your own snacks and non-alcoholic beverages into the Refuge if you prefer.
What do you do with the animals when it is really cold?
We make sure all our animals have warm dens and plenty of warm bedding during the cooler months. Big cats and bears are built to live outside, they have nice thick fur to keep them warm. Some of our 'warm weather' cats have heated dens to give them a little extra warmth.
What do you do with the animals when it is really hot?
We provide all of our animals with plenty of shade and water to help them keep cool during the summer months. We keep a close eye on our cats to make sure they do not overheat.
Do you support the breeding of hybrid animals?
No, we do not support the breeding of hybrid wild cats both big and small. Wild animals belong in the wild and hybrid species have no conservation value. Hybrids are solely made to entertain humans. We do, however, rescue hybrids because we believe that they deserve to live their lives without abuse.
Can I Volunteer?
Yes! We have a volunteer program at the refuge. You can apply and find out more information about this program under our "Opportunities" tab on the menu. Our volunteers do NOT work with the big cats, we have a full staff of trained animal care that work with our cats and all have degrees in Zoology or Biology.
Can I donate a deer?
No, we are not currently taking any deer meat donations. Our veterinarian advised against it due to the current outbreak of Chronic Wasting Disease and Bob Cat Fever. For the health and safety of our animals we cannot accept donated deer meat at this time.
What kind of meat donations do you accept?
Our main source of meat is chicken and beef. We do not accept deer, pig, horse, or goat meat.
A deer was hit by a car, can it be donated?
No, our veterinarian has approved our animals' diets. We do not give our animals any type of road kill.
I want to help but I don't have a lot of money, is there any other way I can help?
Yes! Even if you cannot donate money there are other things you can do to help. Some other things you can do are: tell your friends/family about TCWR and what we do, share our posts on social media, donate items like old perfume, cardboard boxes, cardboard tubes or non-salt spices, become an animal advocate, sign up for Amazon Smile, create online fundraisers, ask friends/family to donate to TCWR instead of giving you birthday/holiday gifts, continue to educate yourself and your friends about the plight of big cats in captivity.
Can we stay overnight?
Yes, we have lodging options at the refuge. You can find more information about our rooms, pricing, and availability under the "Lodging" tab on the menu.