There is an area of our refuge that isn’t open to the general public. We call it Rescue Ridge, and it’s our animal retirement home.
In 2012, a 72-year-old woman in Mountainburg, Arkansas had 34 big cats living in her backyard. She wanted to take care of them for the remainder of their lives, but due to failing health, she couldn’t. We were contacted by the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office to relocate these animals. They lived in some pretty rough conditions and there were concerns of cats escaping.
We rescued 28 cats in 128 days – just over four months. Between November 2012 and March 2013, Turpentine staff visited this woman’s home 15 times. They rescued 27 tigers and 1 cougar. During this time, Animal Care staff and interns were actively building 20 habitats to hold the animals rescued. It is one of the fastest rescues we have completed.
All habitats down at Rescue Ridge have similar elements. Each habitat has a heated den made out of an unused septic tank. In addition, there is the cement night-house and a grassy habitat. For eighteen of our habitats, there is the yard: an additional grassy area attached to the night-house. The yard gives cats access to grass at all times. All of the yards, and two of the habitats, have roofs over the top. These two habitats are ideal for our smaller cat species, like bobcats, servals, and cougars.
Rescue Ridge is flat ground. Our animals have access to grass all the time. This makes it more comfortable for older bones and joints. It is quieter than our tour loop, making it an ideal place for our more anxious cats. We carefully monitor our animals for indications of anxiety or old age, for example, hiding in dens all day or not using the steeper habitats. Our vet and animal curator work together to make the decision to move a cat to Rescue Ridge based on behavior and health.
Right now, we have 27 animals living down at Rescue Ridge. This includes our current oldest animal resident, a tiger named Ty who will be turning 24 in 2022, and our only hyena resident, Rambo. It also includes 5 bears, who live in all-natural bear habitats built in 2018.
While the general public doesn’t get a tour of Rescue Ridge, interested supporters can book a Carnivore Caravan tour on our website. These tours include a tour of the tour loop, commissary, the vet hospital, and Rescue Ridge, run by our Animal Care staff. Our Animal Care staff work with these animals every day and have a wealth of knowledge about their stories and personalities. If you’re interested in booking a Carnivore Caravan tour, check out the Exclusive Tour page of our website.