Turpentine Creek opens new habitat for Colorado rescue animals

Friday, February 10, 2017

The big cats at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge have a new place to play.

The refuge hosted a grand opening Jan. 21 for the new habitat, which features a double hammock, a three-tiered animal bench, fire hose area, rock bench and a makeshift scratching post comprised of enclosed logs.

Ike Wever, promotions coordinator for the rescue, said he’s excited about the habitat’s features.

“We’ve got a big cat scratching post, so they can get their claws up there, stretch their muscles out and keep those claws nice and sharp,” Wever said. “We’ve also got the space with boomer balls, which are very durable, plastic composite toys.”

He pointed out that the cats also have Christmas trees to play with. The trees are left over from the Crescent Hotel’s Christmas celebration, Wever said, and the cats love them.

“They love the scent on those trees,” Wever said. “We got all those trees from the local community and let our animals play with it. This is an awesome space for those guys.”

He added that habitats don’t come cheap. Normally, Wever said, habitats cost between $20,000 and $30,000. He said the new habitat was funded through the help of longtime supporters of the refuge, thanking them for their support.

“We have great supporters,” he said.

Wever explained that the new habitat houses four of the big cats from the refuge’s recent Colorado rescue. The rescue took place in September 2016. During that rescue, he said, the refuge took responsibility for 110 animals. He said all the animals have been placed in sanctuaries, including those that came to Turpentine Creek. Some of these animals had health problems when the refuge took responsibility for them, Wever said.

“We actually had three white tigers who arrived to us with severe metabolic bone disease. It’s kind of debilitating to your skeletal structure,” he said. “What happens there is the animals don’t get enough nutrition. Their bones are real brittle and thin.”

When the tigers arrived at Turpentine Creek, Wever said, they couldn’t use their back legs very well. He said they were part of a cub petting program in Colorado, which Turpentine Creek doesn’t have. He explained that cub petting involves paying a fee to hold or pet an animal.

“We don’t condone cub petting or pay for play. It’s harmful to all animals involved,” he said.

Since they came to the refuge, Wever said, the animals have been doing much better.

“We were able to enrich their diets with a lot of protein and calcium to strengthen those bones back up,” he said. “You can see them running around and playing now. They’re definitely able to use their back legs now.”

Because of the Colorado rescue, he said, the refuge has more young animals than it normally does. The Jackson Memorial Veterinary Hospital was built in 2016 to help take care of these animals, allowing them to be treated on-site at the refuge.

“That building has been very important to us during this rescue effort, because we’ve been able to provide those guys with the care they need to grow up to be lions and tigers,” Wever said.

For those wondering how they can help Turpentine Creek, Wever said the best way is to come out and see the big cats in person.

“We are a non-profit, so whenever you come out here, anything from admission to lodging to donations goes straight to the animals,” he said. “We definitely want to get people out here to help support our cause and efforts. It takes a lot of money to raise these guys.”

For more information on Turpentine Creek, visit http://www.turpentinecreek.org/.

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