July is Wild About Wildlife Month. It’s a month where we celebrate everything wildlife, and we have a lot of that at TCWR!
Starting with the obvious, TCWR is a big cat and bear refuge. Currently, we are home to just under a hundred animals: 50 tigers, 9 lions, 9 bears, 2 leopards, 1 jaguar, 3 cougars, 9 servals, 6 bobcats, 3 ligers, 1 ti-liger, 1 li-liger, 1 savannah cat and 1 hyena. One of the most important things to recognize about our animals is that despite the fact that they live in captivity, under the care of humans, and have little to no survival instinct, they are still wild. Even though many of our animals may seem nice or friendly, they know they are bigger, stronger, faster, and overall more capable than you. For example, our cats love to watch their keepers fall, and they can identify vulnerability in our guests. They are dangerous and wild predators, needing the respect they deserve.
In addition to our cats and bears, TCWR is home to lots of native Arkansas wildlife. Around the refuge, we regularly see deer, raccoons, opossums, rabbits, armadillos, squirrels, birds, mice, turtles, lizards, snakes, bugs, and spiders. And while we don’t see them, bears, cougars, and bobcats are found in the woods around us. We often hear coyotes howling in the night.
One of our frequently asked questions is if our Arkansas wildlife goes into the habitats of our cats. The answer is yes! While big animals like deer, bears, cougars, and coyotes do not, many of the smaller ones will. We have had our big cats use their natural instincts to catch rabbits, vultures, and crows and eat them. We have found the remains of raccoons, opossums, and armadillos in habitats or drowned in pools. Our small cats, like our servals and bobcats, will stalk and hunt birds, butterflies, snakes, lizards, and bugs.
Our keepers occasionally run into the Arkansas wildlife as well! None of us are too fazed by a tiger yelling in our face anymore. But many of our keepers don’t like mice, lizards, snakes, and spiders. As animal lovers, we try our best to remove them safely from our work areas, but not without a little discomfort on our part. Sometimes, we have to do it for the safety of our cats. There are certain species of snakes in Arkansas that are venomous and have to be removed if they make their way into a habitat. Since snakes are protected by Arkansas State Law, they cannot be killed and must be relocated.
We here at TCWR do our best to treat all wildlife with the respect it deserves, from our big cats to the smallest bug. We encourage you to do the same! Whether you live in rural Arkansas, the middle of New York City, the deserts of Africa, or in the jungles of Asia, get to know your local, native wildlife and treat it with respect. The wildlife was here long before we were and it will be here long after us. It’s our job to be an ambassador for our wildlife and tell their stories, as they can’t speak for themselves.