No snow day for big cats, caretakers

snow ball

For many people, a snow day means no school, no work – an involuntary holiday where all you can do is stay in by the fire and listen for the snow plow to go by. At Turpentine Creek Wildlife Preserve, however, a snow like the one that just hit over the weekend means exactly the opposite.

“Our new group of interns just spent two weeks training, and now, on their second day, it snows and everything’s topsy-turvy,” says TCWR Curator Emily McCormack. “You can’t wash out the concrete areas obviously when they’re covered with snow, but if you don’t clear it out, the cats walk on it and pack it down, and it turns to ice, then they slip trying to get around. So the interns chip it out or shovel it out or whatever’s necessary. That pretty white snow doesn’t stay pretty and white for very long. Plus they have to break up the ice on the water dishes several times daily when it’s like this.”

Fortunately, tigers enjoy snow and cold weather. The more sensitive cats, like the lions, which come from warmer climes, tend to stay near their heaters. “The lions look at the snow and act like we put it there,” McCormack laughs. “The tigers and cougars like it though.”

In every aspect of their work, the interns are taught safety first and foremost. Naturally that concern is even more important during treacherous weather conditions.

“It’s safety for us, but also for the big cats and the public,” says McCormack. “Naturally we don’t want anybody hurt, the public or anybody here, so we spend a lot of time keeping the walkways and access roads clear as well.”

Fortunately, McCormack says, most of the new interns are from up north and are familiar with snow. “On the other hand,” she adds, “there’s a difference between going to school or going to work in the snow, and going out to take care of lions, tigers, and bears in the snow. A big difference. But they’re getting it.”

More snow and rain is predicted for the weekend. For information on how to donate to help take care of our snowbound critters, go to

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