DOB 1/1/97 – 2/3/16
Rescue of Narla the Cougar:
This is a letter from someone who knew the Loppi’s. This person below, wanted us to know that Rob was well intended and I post it here as an example of how even the best intentions usually end up bad for the exotic animal.
According to a number of emails I got after the fact, Rob’s wife was looking to euthanize the cat, but Rob’s friends, family and the media were on her case and she couldn’t do it without looking like a monster when we were standing by, ready to take her. It is only because of supporters, like you, that we can help cats like Narla in their greatest moment of need.
Narla has been pretty much blind since she arrived, but Dr. Miller came out to check on her eyes again today.
Dr. Liz Wynn has many friends in the veterinary community and calls in specialists when it is warranted.
Previous exams have shown Narla Cougar to have eye ulcerations that have been treated with eye drops.
This exam reveals that the back side of her eyes are degenerating and Dr. Miller suspects it was from her first 14 years of insufficient nutrition before coming to Big Cat Rescue.
Dr. Tammy Miller says Narla is one of her favorite patients.
When big cats are pulled from their mothers to be hand reared as pets, like Narla had been, they never get a sufficient diet on kitten or puppy milk replacer. This causes a life time of debilitation.
More from Narla’s Rescue:
Dear Big Cat Rescue:
I am very happy that you are giving Narla a new home. Since her owner, Rob Loppi’s, death last May, I can’t tell you how many people worried and wondered what would become of Narla. My reason for writing to you is not just to thank you for taking care of Narla, but because I wanted to give you some background information. I feel it is important for you to know how Narla came to Rhode Island in the first place. Since the story of Narla’s rescue broke, I have read and heard many negative comments about Rob Loppi having this animal in the first place. There have been many comments in the newspapers that are just not accurate. Since Rob is no longer with us, and can’t defend himself, I would like the real story known. He didn’t just wake up one morning and decide on a whim that it would be great to have a cougar. I was there, and would like the true story to be told.
Rob got Narla when she was a baby, not 5 months old as was inaccurately reported. She was no bigger than a puppy, still had her baby fuzz and spots and was still being bottle fed. She was obtained by a person that Rob knew casually. This friend purchased her from a breeder in Virginia, thinking that it would be cool to have a mountain lion as a pet. When he got her home, his fiancé, correctly, would not allow him to keep her, so he brought her to Rob. People were always bringing unwanted animals to Rob…cats, dogs, goats, pigs…whatever.
Initially, Rob did not want to take her, but he was afraid that if he refused she would end up in a bad situation. Rob took her in and set about trying to find her a home. Since she was an illegal exotic at that point, this was not an easy task. He contacted the Dept. of Environmental Management in RI anonymously and was informed that they would confiscate the cat and most likely she would be destroyed – unbelievable, but true. They said that it was not their policy to find homes for dangerous animals, just to protect the environment and maintain public safety. He then contacted Roger Williams Zoo and asked them to take her – they refused because a). they do not take animals from private parties, only other zoos, and b). she came from a breeder and was bottle fed. They said that other cats would not take to her and would possibly harm or kill her. After many more such calls…you get the picture. No one would help. You should also keep in mind that this time period was before the internet was a household item, so trying to get information was much more difficult.
Feeling like he had no other options, he contacted the breeder in Virginia and asked to bring her back. He drove her to Virginia and was appalled at the conditions. Virginia’s laws on exotics are (or, at that time, were) very lenient and this guy would obviously sell to anyone as long as the price was right. He just couldn’t leave her there. He knew that she would be re-sold and probably end up in a traveling carnival or roadside “zoo” with her teeth filed down, being whipped into submission, living in deplorable conditions and spending most of her life in a crate. He knew that he could do better by her, so he made the decision that he would have to keep her to make sure that she was cared for and safe. Unfortunately, this would mean having her declawed for safety. This wasn’t something he wanted to do, but he did it in an effort to try to maintain her.
He then set about getting Narla legal. Since he already knew DEM’s position, he went to the Federal level. USDA told him what he needed to do in order to get a license to keep an exotic (again, at that time, their rules were much less stringent). He built the double cage (making it bigger and stronger than the required size and pipe diameter) with natural materials and different levels and perches for climbing, set up an account with a chicken farm so he could feed her properly, contacted a veterinarian who had the qualifications to provide medical care for Narla and set about learning everything he needed to know about the care and husbandry of mountain lions. USDA inspected and found him to be a suitable owner and he was granted a license. Once he had the USDA license in hand, DEM could not confiscate and destroy her, so he was then able to begin application for a RI license. He hired an attorney and, after getting through all the paperwork and red tape, he received the license. RI DEM inspected regularly, including random and surprise visits, always finding Narla in good care and condition.
Rob NEVER tried to domesticate Narla. He was very well aware that she was a wild animal. While he did have an amazing connection with her, she was always treated as a mountain lion, not as a house cat, which has been implied in the media. Narla has been characterized as “gentle and affectionate” and she was…with Rob. This, as you know, is the case with big cats…they bond to one person and can be jealous and aggressive with others. Visitors and friends were not allowed to just hang out in the living room with her. She didn’t just wander freely around the house or yard. Even Rob’s closest friends were not allowed direct contact. This wasn’t Siegfried and Roy. She is a predator and certainly capable of attacking and killing. He knew that, and safety was always the first priority, not just our safety, but Narla’s too. People can be foolish and cruel, which is why Rob didn’t want the general public to know about her. That was another reason for the double cage, not just to keep Narla in, but to keep people out. There was only one other person, Rob’s friend Mike, who was allowed to care for Narla and did so during Rob’s illness. Mike was trained in Narla’s care and feeding and did a great job. Rob was so grateful to Mike. With all he was going through, many rounds of chemotherapy treatments, numerous infections and finally a bone marrow transplant, at least he knew Narla was in good hands.
Rob didn’t use Narla as a gimmick or sideshow attraction. Sure, people knew about her and would be curious to see her, but he never profited from her. He allowed “ordinary” people to come to see her in her cage, but never allowed media attention. He wouldn’t give interviews, allow media photos or any exploitation of her in any way. He didn’t want to glorify having a big cat in his yard. He didn’t want people to think that it is ok to try to keep a mountain lion as a pet. Rob knew that keeping her was not an ideal situation, but at that time, he felt he was doing what was best for her. When he made the decision to keep Narla, he took on a huge financial burden…food, supplements, veterinary care, etc. and he could have very easily used this beautiful animal as a way to make money, but that was never his way. He just wanted to give her the best life he could and keep her safe.
So, now you know Narla’s story. I felt that it was important for you to know that, while she may have been raised in someone’s backyard, she wasn’t just a passing fancy, she wasn’t a “pet“ in the conventional sense of the word. She was a lifelong responsibility taken on by a guy who made a hard decision based on limited options. Had she not been born to a breeder in Virginia who sells these animals to anyone with enough money to buy them, without any thought or concern for where they will live or how they will be treated, she would not have been in Rhode Island. If Rob hadn’t “rescued” her first, Big Cat Rescue may have found Narla in a horrible situation, if she had survived at all.
Thank you again for all that you do for these animals and, especially for Narla. She is always loved and surely missed.
If only they could speak to us in a language that we understand. Then we might know the horrors they have survived and be more inclined to protect others from enduring their fate.
I’ll share with you what I do know and hope that will inspire you to help these cougars and to do all you can to end the trade in exotic cats.
Back in the 90s, farmers Al and Kathy Abell, decided to start a breeding facility called Cougar Bluff Enterprises. They set up cages in their back yard in Elizabethtown, IL and filled them with a couple of cougars (Freddy & Sassy) a lion cub named Simba, some wolves and wolf hybrids. It was their plan to breed and sell and be surrounded by the kinds of wild animals they loved. The more they saw of what breeders and dealers were doing to animals, like the former owner who had beaten Sassy with a shovel, the more they realized that there was just no good reason to be breeding and selling exotics, so they never bred the big cats.
Having raised Simba the lion from a cub, they may have been complacent about the dangers of such interactions. Simba wasn’t even full grown before killing Al Abel. On that tragic day, Feb. 12, 2004 Kathy Abel came home to find the lion on the front porch of their home, her dog dead in the yard and no sign of her husband.
Sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene as dark was closing in and the lion was on the edge of the 277,000 ac Shawnee National Forest. Kathy could not locate darts for her dart gun and the deputies were ordered to shoot Simba the lion rather than risk him killing someone in the park. It wasn’t until after Simba, body riddled by bullets, lay dying that Kathy discovered her husband dead on the floor of Simba’s cage. It had only taken one bite to the leg to cause him to bleed to death.
Fast forward six years and on Nov. 8, 2010 Chris Poole, of Big Cat Rescue came across a Facebook post saying that Kathy Abell had killed herself and left two cougars and an array of other domestic pets and farm animals with no one for miles around to care for them. We responded right away that we would come get the two cougars, Freddy and Sassy. It took a long 9 days to get the health certificate and import permit and to wait for Kathy’s family to bury her before we would be allowed to arrive on the scene. Meanwhile, Robin Parks, Field Volunteer for the Mountain Lion Foundation had coordinated with Kathy’s sister Kimberly Rapp and a local rehabber, Bev Shofstall to insure that the cats were being fed and cared for.
Big Cat Rescuers; President, Jamie Veronica Murdock, Operations Manager, Gale Ingham and Chris Poole hit the road on Nov. 17th driving straight through the night to Cave In Rock, IL which was the nearest lodge to the cougars. While en-route, Bev the rehabber emailed asking us to hurry as she wasn’t sure Freddy, the 14 year old and very frail cougar, could make it another day. Rescuers made the trip in record time but arrived well after dark. They coordinated with Kimberly Rapp to pick up the cats at first light on the morning of the 18th.
This is where YOU come in.
These cats have witnessed things that no one should ever have to see. It is only through your help that we can make sure their last years are the best years of their lives. Your voice in letters to your lawmakers asking for a ban on the private possession of big cats, at CatLaws.com is what will stop the future breeding, trading and discarding of big cats that led to this sad situation. Your donations are what make it possible for us to commit to an emergency rescue like this.
For PayPal send to CustomerService@BigCatRescue.org
Cougar Rescue Video
Time Line of a Mountain Lion Rescue
On Nov. 8, 2010 Big Cat Rescue videographer, Chris Poole came across this post on Facebook:
Mr. Robin Parks
Special Agent, NCIS (Ret)
Field Volunteer, Mountain Lion Foundation (MLF)
San Diego, California
Images courtesy of Bev Shofstall
This is a long shot, but….Late last night I received word that an acquaintance of mine (Kathy Abell) in southern Illinois apparently killed herself sometime last Thursday (11/4/2010). In addition to a number of pets and farm animals, she left behind two elderly cougars.I have known these cats for nearly 10 years. This is the weekend and I’ve been unable to contact any key player out there, but I did notify the USDA inspector from Indiana who occasionally monitors the cats. A family member told me that someone from the Illinois Dept of Natural Resources is trying to care for the cats, but I’ve not yet confirmed this. The sheriff’s office that responded to the scene has been less than helpful as the matter of the care and disposition of the cats is not their concern. I’ll be working the phones hot & heavy tomorrow morning.The USDA inspector has already suggested the cats may have to be put down, and I fully realize there just may not be any other solution. Both cats are fragile and stress easily, and one is terrified of men as he was beaten with a shovel by a man when he was a cub. I’m hoping that I will be given at least a few days to place these cats before someone makes a decision to shoot them.Do any of you know any accredited facility in Illinois or elsewhere in the Midwest that might be able to assume custody???Do any of you know any person in that area who might be able to lend some personal expertise as to the feeding and care of the animals. I’m sure the DNR person, will do her best, but won’t have a clue. Any other ideas??For whatever good it will do, I may be headed out there in the next few days to see if I can help, even if it’s only to ensure the cats are put down humanely. I may know more about the cats than any one else.
Nov. 8: I called Robin Parks and told him we could provide permanent care for the cougars and could come pick them up.
Robin said Bev Shofstall was going out to check on the cats and that she should be the main contact person for those coming in. Bev is a private citizen, not a DNR employee, who operates the Free Again Wildlife Rehab center in Carterville, Illinois. Shofstall has a cougar at her facility and has the basic skills and knowledge to keep the lid on this matter until some better solution can be reached.
Robin described the cats as:
1. Freddy, male, maybe 160 lbs, about 14 yrs old, declawed, the usual joint and arthritis stuff but not bad for his age, easily stressed by noise and strangers, easily managed by the threat of spraying him with a garden hose at one end while offering chicken at the other. He is probably already very stressed by what has happened.
2. Sassy, male, maybe 12, maybe 120 lbs, afraid of men as a result of a son-of-a-bitch beating him with a shovel handle when he was a cub, not bad with women, no real physical probs that I know of.
Nov. 9: Robin reported, “Freddy, the older cat, is not eating so well and is obviously grieved about Kathie not being there. He tends to lose weight kinda quickly when he does this, but usually bounces back ok.” He went on to say, “Kathie’s will passed nearly everything to a son, Neil Evans, by a earlier relationship, and that son (in Indiana or MI @ obit) has passed authority to Kimberly Rapp (sister) to handle all matters regarding property and animals and whatever. I once helped transfer Freddie from one enclosure to another. He didn’t want to cooperate, but gave in when the garden hose came out. It was done without any tranq’ing. Sassy might be a bit more problematic, but my feeling is no darting will be needed with him either. Can’t recall if I mentioned it earlier but…Freddie is declawed, but I think Sassy is still packin’. Both have plenty of teeth.”
The address for the site in Hardin County where the animals are is listed as Rt 2, Elizabethtown, Illinois, near Cave-in-Rock. The site is very close to a tourist area known as “The Garden of the Gods” in Karbers Ridge, Illinois, and is also a mile from a very small camp ground area called “Camp Cadiz”.
Nov. 9: Just so you know what we are up against when we try to rescue a big cat. The exploiters would rather the cats die or go to some backyard jail cell than see us make case after case for why the private possession of these cats should be banned. Robin said 6 people he didn’t know called him with comments that characterized us as “the anti-Christ”, “pagan sacrifices”, “gold digging slut”, and said “her facilities are pig sties”, better the cats be dead than with her, she’s only a “hoarder”, she’s only trying to advance her own personal agenda at the expense of the others trying to help, and worse. He also said he knew BS when he smelled it.
Nov. 10: Robin reports: “Bev Shofstall did visit the cats yesterday. Things are as good as can be expected, but Freddy is not eating, and it’s taking a toll. He appears a bit weaker and all the stress has probably made worse whatever joint/bone/age problems he has. I have seen him go thru this before, so we shouldn’t write him off just yet, but for SURE he’ll need some TLC and handling with kid gloves. Bev brought some very fresh venison for him, but he showed no interest. She will visit the cats again tomorrow (Thursday, the day of the memorial service). Sassy, on the other hand, appears to be doing ok, still has a good appetite, and his usual cranky disposition. He just may not be a problem to transfer at all.”
Nov. 1: Kathy G. Abell, age 56, died at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5, 2010, at her residence and was cremated and memorialized today.
Nov. 12, 2010 Robin let me know that Ann Marie Houser took over from Elizabeth Taylor as the USDA agent involved. He said Bev had returned to visit the cats the day before and that “I talked with Bev Shofstall a few minutes ago. She was at the site yesterday, and Freddy seems to be doing a bit better. He’s eaten some venison and other goodies and appears a bit more alive. He has issues, but it’s likely he’s mostly been reacting to the loss of his Kathie and all the strangers being around. Sassy, the other cat, seems to be doing fine.”
I told Kimberly Rapp I would need her to fax me a health certificate for the cats so I could apply for a FL import permit.
Nov. 13: A vet came out to inspect the cats for transport and Kimberly faxed it to me. I filled out the FWC permit application, attached the health certificate and faxed to the Florida Wildlife Commission. Our “friend” at the FWC, Capt. John West has retired, so I was worried about how long the permit would take as they claim to be running two weeks behind on them.
Nov. 15: I called the FWC to see if they got my fax over the weekend and they had, but complained that Precious was on vacation and that Capt. Linda Harrison was overloaded with permit applications. I explained the dire situation again, as I had in the application, and asked that they give Freddy and Sassy priority. I then contacted Capt. Harrison and asked her to sort through the pile to find our application.
I asked Kimberly Rapp if she wanted us to pay for Great Dane carriers locally that she could put in the cages for the cats to get used to, but she said there was no way to get them through the gates.
Nov. 16: The FWC issued our import permit. I let Kimberly Rapp and Robin Parks know that we were awaiting Kimberly’s directive on when we should arrive. We sat on pins and needle all day waiting for a response. Finally around 9pm Kimberly called and asked if we could be there the day after. She and Bev had gone to the cats and because the weather had been in the 20s and 30s. All the cats had for shelter was a dog-loo on a hard floor so she had wanted to put a rug in for Freddy, but he wouldn’t have it, so she removed it. They had been working in the freezing rain and she had contacted us as soon as she got in.
I called Jamie and let her know that Kimberly was taking Thursday off to be there and wanted our crew to be there before noon. That meant our crew would have to leave first thing Wed. the morning of the 17th. Jamie contacted Chris and Gale and let them know to pack their bags and bring their lunch.
Nov. 17: By 7am the Big Cat Rescuers were on their way to Cave In Rock, IL. They took turns driving and sleeping and by 6pm they were in Nashville and getting sandwiches to eat on the road. One tire didn’t look too good, but everything else was going fine and they hoped to be at the lodge by midnight.
Bev emailed me during the day asking when we would be coming. It seems that neither Kimberly, nor Robin told her we were already on the way. She said that she thought Freddy was much closer to death than previously thought. She was worried that he wouldn’t make it another night.
During the course of the day I learned that Kathy Abell was not the first person to die at this facility. Robin confided, “I first met Kathie and her husband Al sometime in the late 90?s when her place (a very small place, barely even a mom & pop operation) was called Cougar Bluff Enterprises. They had a wolf or two, some hybrids or two, a cougar or two, and (a bit later I think) one huge Barbary lion (just huge, every bit as big as a Siberian). I liked the cats, know how things were in Hardin County, and offered to work at their place doing anything they needed anytime I was back there (my parents live about 30 miles from there and I came back 2x/year). In all the years I knew them, no one before or since, has ever offered to volunteer for them.
Now…no doubt about it, at the time I first met them, their plan was to breed the wolves (not so much the cats, as I recall) and sell them. They pretty much saw this as a business.
However, also about the time I met them, they started going through a change of philosophy. Over a couple of years, they quickly learned how many neglected animals there are out there in that world, how badly they often get treated, and how so much of this terrible situation was fueled by the breeders. So….they dropped their plans and converted to the “non breeder” point of view. They never bred any animal.
Almost without exception, the cats they got were “throw away’s” or badly neglected animals that came from breeders or other mom & pop places. Sassy was one of those, and had been badly abused by it’s owner. The Barbary was also one of these. It’s a long story, but some butthead somewhere got hold of the lion with he was very young, kept it in the garage for about 3 weeks until the cat got big enough to eat people, and then they basically told Al & Kathie they would kill the lion if they didn’t take it from them. So, they did….and got just waaaay over their heads.
It was that lion, somewhere around 2003 (it was 2004) that ended up killing Al. It’s a long story and there’s some fine points that are still not known, but Al apparently went into the cage ALONE to do some cleaning, and apparently didn’t secure the outer perimeter lock. The cat maybe knocked thru a inner perimeter lock, bit Al just one on the leg, then strolled out of the compound. Again, long story, but Al bled out before anybody got there several hours later. Hardin County cops came and killed the lion, who by that time was waiting at the porch for Kathie to get home. Sad.
So….that’s kinda the story here. This thing did indeed start out as a “breeding” story, but they did totally convert their thinking many years before the sad recent events. In some respects, it’s a redemption story.”
These were the two news articles that ran about the death of Al Abell in 2004
Man killed by pet African lion
Associated Press 02/13/2004
ELIZABETHTOWN, Ill. (AP) — A Hardin County man who kept exotic animals was apparently attacked and killed Thursday by a pet African lion, authorities said.
Al Abell was apparently changing the bedding of the lion’s pen when he was attacked, Sheriff Carl Cox told The Paducah Sun.
According to Cox, Abell’s wife returned to the couple’s home near Elizabethtown in southeastern Illinois shortly before 6 p.m., saw the lion out of its pen and called the sheriff’s office. Deputies killed the lion and then discovered Abell lying nearby, according to the newspaper.
Abell was taken to Hardin County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:37 p.m., Coroner Roger Little said. An autopsy was scheduled for Friday, he said.
Cox said he visited the property about three years ago with state officials to make sure the Abells had the proper permits for the tigers, wolves and other exotic animals the couple kept on the property. He said he believed the lion that attacked Abell was a cub at the time of that visit.
Jeffrey Bonner, the president of the St. Louis Zoo, said Abell’s death illustrates just how dangerous wild animals can be.
“Even after centuries of breeding, you still can’t eradicate behavior that’s natural for them,” he said. “Lions hunt for their meat and kill it; it’s what they do. To think that an owner of any big cat, even after several years, can really domesticate them is, of course, naive.”
Error with lion led to farmer’s death
By James Janega, Tribune staff reporter.
The two had raised Simba since he was a cub, and Al Abell must have felt comfortable around the almost full-grown male lion, Kathie Abell said.
Among the things the government oversees with animal exhibitors is how powerful animals like lions and other big cats are enclosed.
Big cats are expected to have two pens: A larger one with shelter in which to live and a smaller “shift pen” into which the animal can be moved while the larger enclosure is cleaned. The gate between the two must have a lock, and anyone who works around the animals must be trained in how to safely move the animals from one pen to the other. Typically, experts say, the maneuver is done by at least two people.
But on Feb. 12, 2004, Al Abell was alone when he moved the lion from its enclosure and into the shifting pen, and “did not lock [the] shift pen while cleaning shelter and surrounding area,” the animal care inspection report noted later.
“He never cleaned any large-field enclosure by himself till this tragic event occurred,” the report said.
Police reports, as well as interviews with Kathie Abell and southern Illinois law enforcement officials shortly after Al Abell died revealed the tense twilight standoff that day between nervous police officers and an agitated lion on the edge of Shawnee National Forest’s 277,000 acres.
It took a half-hour for police officers to fly up the gravel road to the farm after Kathie Abell’s call.
In that time, a frantic Kathie Abell had found a tranquilizer gun, but not the darts.
When Hardin County sheriff’s deputies arrived, she knew her dog had been killed, but couldn’t find her husband.
The Abells’ menagerie of wildcats, lorded over by a limping 8-year-old cougar named Freddy, paced and cowered in their pens. The wolves and several huskies cried from cages at the tree line below.
Standing in the Abells’ fenced yard with his back to Freddy’s cage, Hardin County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Reed aimed an AK-47 at Simba.
Deputy Chad Vinyard and Cave In Rock Police Officers Mike and Terry Dutton ran up behind him, Vinyard on a radio to the county’s chief deputy, Bill Stark, asking for ideas.
Stark was speeding in a car with Sheriff Carl Cox, who said he and Stark peered into the failing February light at the dense forest rushing past their car and made a decision.
“We didn’t want the animal loose,” Cox said.
Stark told them that if they had a clear shot, to take it. “Just make it a kill shot,” he told them over the radio.
The police officers turned to Abell. Fifteen years of raising big cats came to a single tearful nod. Vinyard counted to three.
At the first volley, Simba jumped 10 feet, two wounds in his head. Slinking toward a shed, the lion was hit again by Dutton and Reed. Officers came to within a few paces as the lion finally collapsed, and two more shots rang out. Simba stopped breathing.
Vinyard’s voice crackled over the radio.
“The lion’s down,” he said.
That was when Kathie Abell found her husband, noted Reed and Dutton. “We heard Kathie Abell screaming approximately 50 yards away,” Dutton wrote.
Paramedics tried CPR, then evacuated Al Abell by air without ever hearing a sound from his lungs. His skin was cold, dry and pale. The coroner determined he had died in minutes, his life pouring out the bite wound in his left thigh.
Kathie Abell gave the lion’s carcass to zoology students at Southern Illinois University, where the heaping, frozen body was thawed and dissected two months later.
HARDIN CO., IL — Authorities say an Illinois man who kept exotic animals was attacked and killed Thursday by a pet African lion.
Sheriff Carl Cox says Al Abell was apparently changing the bedding of thelion’s pen when he was attacked. Cox says Abell’s wife returned to the couple’s home near Elizabethtown in southeastern Illinois, shortly before 6 p-m. She saw the lion out of its pen and called the sheriff’s office.
Deputies killed the lion and then discovered Abell lying nearby. Coroner Roger Little says he was taken to Hardin County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:37 p.m.
An autopsy is scheduled for today. Jeffrey Bonner, the president of the St. Louis Zoo, says Abell’s death illustrates just how dangerous wild animals can be.
Nov. 17: 8:45pm Big Cat Rescuers arrive at the Cave In Rock Lodge. It is a tiny, yet historic lodge nestled in the Shawnee National Park. Cave In Rock Park is named for the 55-foot-wide cave that was carved out of the limestone rock by water thousands of years ago. Following the Revolutionary War, this immense recess came to serve as the ideal lair for outlaws, bandits and river pirates who preyed on the people traveling along the Ohio River.One of the most ambitious of these ruthless malefactors was Samuel Mason. Once an officer in George Washington’s Revolutionary Army, in 1797 he converted the cavern into a tavern which he called the Cave-In-Rock. From this apparently innocent and inviting position, Mason would dispatch his cohorts upriver to befriend unwary and bewildered travelers with offers of help and guidance. As they neared the cave, these henchmen would disable their boats or force them toward the yawning hollow, where the hapless pilgrims would be robbed, or worse. Few victims lived to tell their story.
By the early 1800s, following the demise of the Mason Gang, the cave sheltered the even more notorious Harpe Brothers, a pair of killers fleeing execution in Kentucky. They continued their personal reign of thievery and murder in Illinois, using the cave as hideout and headquarters until they too were killed.
It’s interesting to note that the cave served as a backdrop for a scene in the movie “How The West Was Won.” The scene was a near-accurate portrayal of how, in the 18th and 19th centuries, ruthless bandits used the cave to lure unsuspecting travelers to an untimely end.
Although other desperadoes continued to take advantage of the secrecy and seclusion afforded by Cave-In-Rock, by the mid-1830s the quickening westward expansion of civilization and the steady growth in the local population and commerce had destroyed or driven out the “river rats” and the cave began to serve as temporary shelter for other pioneers on their way west.
Nov. 19: 3:52 am the Big Cat Rescue team and Freddy and Sassy the cougars arrived at Big Cat Rescue, but it was too dark to safely let them out, so everyone slept for a couple of hours and waited for dawn.
6:30 am The staff, volunteer committe and board were invited to see the release, but it had been sent out so late that only Chelsea, Howard and I came to watch Jamie, Gale, Chris & Chelsea release Freddy and Sassy into their new, spacious, lakeside homes. Video will be coming soon; once Chris has some time to sleep, get married, renew his driver’s license and piece together the footage and interviews. Meanwhile, a picture (or two) is worth a thousand words.
6:30 pm Jamie hand fed Freddy and Sassy from a stick tonight to get a good look at their teeth and to begin a bonding process with them. Our main diet is a prepared ground diet of muscle meat, organs, bones and vitamins but it will be a gradual process to move these cats to the healthier fare. She gave them a few balls on the end of the stick and they weren’t crazy about it. They each ate a chicken leg quarter, a plate of necks, and several chunks of beef. Jamie said they would have eaten more, but she didn’t want to overload their systems, so she left some more of the ground diet, so that they wouldn’t go to bed hungry. The ground diet comes in three fat content levels, so we may try them on the higher content to get them liking it and then scale back once they are in good condition again. Both cats have been very calm and acting like they have known us forever, so all is well tonight at Big Cat Rescue.
Big Cat Rescue is an educational sanctuary and a home for more than 100 big cats 12802 Easy St. Tampa, FL 33625 813.920.4130
Sassyfrass Vet Visit 2014
Sassyfrass the cougar didn’t come out to eat last night, so we knew something was up and set an appointment to see the vet.
Sassyfrass the cougar has failing kidneys, and is incontinent, so he pees on himself in his sleep and then lays in it.
He is old and arthritic, so he can’t groom himself any more and his fur gets matted.
We have to shave him once a year so we decide to do it while he is at the vet’s office under sedation.
Volunteers load up Sassyfrass the cougar and take him into our on site cat hospital to await transfer to the van.
He will be weighed so we know how much sedation to give at the vet’s office. He weighs 134 lbs.
We will check his blood again to see how much his kidney failure has progressed.
His transport cage is supported by long poles so the keepers don’t get their hands near him.
Every time we go to the vet we try to choose an Intern or Volunteer to go with us for their education.
Gale put Michael to work, helping her shave Sassyfrass while the vet and vet techs did their work up on him.
Sassyfrass’ breath would knock you over, and they thought there must be bad teeth, but after cleaning and X-rays, they saw that none needed to be pulled.
Sassyfrass does have one eye with blood in the chamber, so he is being treated for that and he had ulcerations on his tongue; but no obvious cause. The rest of his blood work was sent out for further testing.
If you are looking for a way to help protect big cats like Cecil, please take the Tiger Selfie Challenge below. While Cecil was not a cub that was used for pay to play and then turned out into a canned hunt, most of his kind do start out that way.
Take the Tiger Selfie Challenge!
You remember the Ice Bucket Challenge, don’t you? It was a crazy, popular way to raise awareness about Lou Gherig’s Disease, that started in 2014 and has already raised more than 100,000 million dollars for ALS research. Just yesterday Boston Mayor Marty Walsh took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge—and challenged Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to do the same. A full year later this form of public activism is still grabbing headlines.
What if the cats had such a successful campaign to raise awareness about the suffering they endure for tiger selfies, lion selfies and liger selfies?
You KNOW we could end the pay to play schemes, once and for all, if everyone knew that posing with tiger cubs was Cruel NOT Cool! Find out how here: http://bigcatrescue.org/selfie/
New Big Cat Videos
Never miss a video starring your big cat friends! Subscribe to both channels:
In honor of Cecil the lion we have created free screen savers and wallpapers for Macs and PCs at our newly launched ChatBigCats.com site! LaWanna and Ysabel have been working for months to convert our old BigCatFun.com site to a kid safe, mobile responsive, interactive site where you can play games, puzzles and find all kinds of fun things to do. This site is still in Beta, so some links may be broken, but this link will take you to an area that is ready, where you can download the screen savers and wallpapers. http://chatbigcats.com/newsletter-gifts-august-2015/
Your voice is saving big cats!
Last month we asked you to speak out against the cruel use of cubs, in a pay to play Swim-With-Tigers scheme at Dade City Wild Things and USDA has finally sued them for severe violations of the Animal Welfare Act saying, “The gravity of the violations alleged in this complaint is great, involving multiple failures to handle animals carefully and to provide access for inspection.” Find out more at TigerCubAbuse2.com
Because you take action, whenever we point out big cat abuse, the USDA has also sued Doug Terranova who runs a circus and shows up at fairs with Joe Schreibvogel and his pay to play cubs, and Gregg & Karen Woody who also drag cubs out to parking lots and fairs. We can end the abuse of lions, tigers, ligers and other wild animal cubs if we all speak out together. Thank you for taking action on our alerts, and please be sure to do so on the following:
Top Shocking Incidents
of Big Cat Exploitation – August 2015
We hope by sharing a new list with you each month that you will join us in speaking out for the big cats and cubs that are exploited across this country every day. We encourage you to take one small action today and contact one or more of the offenders below to politely express your concern. Together we can be the voice for the voiceless…together we can make a difference. If you learn of exotic cats or cubs being exploited in your area, please contact Susan Bass at Susan.Bass@BigCatRescue.org.
No. 1 The Benton County Fair in Oregon recently hosted A Walk on the Wild Side’s exotic animal exhibit. An article in the local Corvallis Gazette-Times quoted one fairgoer saying the cages were small and the animals were pacing and showed signs of stress. A Walk on the Wild Side, also located in Oregon, has been closed to the public since March 2015 due to code violations but still subjects exotic cats to fairs and shows.
Benton County Fair Manager Lonny Wunder said he receives two or three complaints a year about the wild animal exhibit, but he will reconsider having them back if he receives more than that. SO we are asking you to please urge Wunder to do the humane thing and not allow exotic animals to be displayed at the fair next year.
Contact Fair Manager Lonny Wunder at 541-766-6090 and email him at this link http://www.bentoncountyfair.net/contact-us/email-inquiry/ No. 2 The Midland County Fair in Michigan just hosted a circus act called Wambold’s Amazing Animals. The act featured several tigers and even included a liger – the result of the unnatural mating of a tiger and a lion. Local paper Midland Daily News covered the tiger show in at least two articles but never mentioned the true issues involved with big cats in traveling acts in their reporting. Fair manager Trish Steele is quoted gushing over the circus act, “They provide a lot of educational information to people who are in the free entertainment area. It’s not just a show.” Hmmm.
The owner of the tiger is also quoted in the article saying white tigers are “very, very rare in the wild because they have no camouflage.” It’s true they don’t have camouflage, but white tigers are not found in the wild because they are not a species!
There is nothing educational about seeing majestic big cats forced to perform in front of crowds and travel in small transport wagons. Please help us educate Steele and the Midland Daily News that exotic cats and other animals at fairs and in circus acts should be a thing of the past. Urge the fair to NOT have the cats back next year.
No. 3 The Kutztown Fair in Pennsylvania recently hosted a circus act with tigers called Tiger Encounter, run by the notorious Frisco circus family.
We’re told children were allowed to feed the cats with a long stick. That sends the wrong message that big cats are ours to use how we want. Please kindly let the Kutztown Fair that animal lovers do not want to see big cats used as entertainment.
No.4 The West End Fair in Pennsylvania is going on right now until August 29. The fair features Bruno Blaszak’s Royal Bengal Tiger circus show. However, there is no such thing as a “royal” Bengal tiger. The fair’s website says Bruno is “devoted to preserving these magnificent tigers for many generations to come.”
Breeding them to live lives of misery in circus acts and traveling the country in tiny transport cages? That is no life at all for big cats.
No. 5 The Showhegen State Fair in Maine recently included the Vicenta White Tigers circus act. In a local newspaper article, owner Vicenta Pages actually told a reporter – presumably with a straight face – that “there are no longer any white Bengal tigers left in the wild of their homeland in India, having been hunted and poached to extinction.” HUH?
White tigers do not exist in the wild and could not survive even if they did because they would not be able to sneak up on prey or hide from predators. Big Cat Rescue believes it is tragic that fair managers and even journalists fall for these lies over and over again. Would you speak out for these tigers?
Many of you responded to our action alert, contacting the FWC and asking them to not give up on the FL panther. Big Cat Rescue attended the meeting in Sarasota to speak up for panthers (and bears). We also participated in a news conference with the Sierra Club, The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and the Humane Society of the United States. Our combined actions resulted in the FWC taking note of the public’s comments and sending the proposal back to their staff for
Earlier this month (August 2015) the FWC posted their revised policy proposal. As the Tampa Bay Times put it in their editorial on August 17th, the revised proposal is a “win for open government over secrecy” but the policy still has “some weasel language” and that overall, this is a reminder of the “need for public oversight of this critical agency.”
Big Cat Rescue opposes the revised policy proposal Although we were pleased to read that the overall tone of the proposal had softened with the removal of some of the most contentious terms and language, Big Cat Rescue found the “weasel language” to be far more extensive and subtle than the TBT let on.
First, the good.
The revision includes welcomed recommendations to restore panther habitat in the Everglades, coordinate with the Florida Department of Transportation on the installation wildlife crossings, and support for strategic conservation easements. But much like the FWC’s response to request for more habitat be protected for wildlife – the FWC has little to no say in these matters. These recommendations are just that, recommendations.
Second, the bad.
The original proposal repeated brash assertions that the FWC would no longer support panther recovery outside of southwest Florida and insisted that one population of an estimated 100 to 180 panthers in southwest Florida after 34 years “should be ample scientific evidence to warrant reconsideration of the status of panthers under the Endangered Species Act.”
The federal government has maintained that for panthers to be taken off of the endangered species list their needs to be three separate populations, each with 240 panthers. Conservation groups, wildlife organizations, and a wide array of Floridians were quick to call out what was an attempt to force the federal government to reconsider the criteria for taking panthers off the endangered species list. (Big Cat Rescue believes that lowering the panther’s federal protective status, and ultimately delisting the big cat from the Endangered Species Act, are steps towards allowing a panther hunt.)
This revision, in addition to the softer tone and recommendations, includes language stating that the FWC does not intend to change the panther’s protected status. But the core statements brashly asserted in the original proposal are still there – polished and smoothed over, but none the wiser.
Third, the ugly.
The FWC is still abandoning their obligation to federal recovery efforts outside of the small population of 100 to 180 panthers in southwest Florida. The policy proposal still calls for federal officials to lessen their criteria for taking panthers off the endangered species list. It also leaves the door wide open for the FWC to take lethal action against panthers.
Be a voice for the Florida panther!
Tell the FWC Commissioners to oppose the policy proposal. Attend the upcoming FWC meeting in Ft. Lauderdale on September 2nd, 2015 at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina. The FWC will be voting on the revised policy proposal as well as finalizing rules for the impending bear hunt.
She is the perfect example of why it never works out to make a pet of a wild cat. In her case there was a husband and wife who had lots of money, larger than usual cages and who fed their cats a decent diet.
But all in the same month the wife became pregnant and the husband discovered that he was terminally ill. With two tigers and eight cougars as pets, where were they going to find forever homes for their animals? We were able to take one tiger and all 8 cougars, but big rescues like that are very expensive and include taking on a lifetime commitment to the cats. They did find another home for their male tiger, but good sanctuaries are all full and over flowing, so it is very rare that big cats can be rescued by places that don’t implode shortly thereafter.
Tobi is a very small and secretive cat, and is also very agile and active. She loves to hide in the palmetto of her cat-a-tat until a person has just passed and then rushes out to surprise them from behind. Tobi lives in an enclosure next to Hal, who is always vying for her attention.
Orion is the goofy one in the group, he is always up to something and puts a smile on our faces with his silly antics. The three cubs can be hard to tell apart at times, but if you look in their eyes, you will be able to pick out his mischievous gaze and know right away which one is Orion. Orion loves dinner time and can change abruptly from cute goofball to serious cougar with an appetite. Orion also loves to climb the trees in his enclosures and is constantly testing the limits of the tinier branches.
A mother mountain lion had been shot by a hunter leaving her three newborn kittens orphans. A rehabber had been given temporary custody of three cougar cubs by Idaho’s Fish and Game Department and three weeks to find them a home in a zoo or to euthanize them. The idea of these magnificent creatures ending up in a zoo where they would be bred for generation after generation of imprisoned animals was more than she could bear.
She visited our web site and was asking herself if death might be more humane than life in a cage but before she made such a decision she contacted Big Cat Rescue. After more than twenty years in her business of rescuing, rehabbing and releasing native wildlife she was no stranger to tough choices, but this one was particularly hard. Because Idaho does not allow big cats to be rehabbed and released they could never go free. If the choice was made for them to live in an accredited facility then how would their sacrifice (life in a cage) be used to stop their kind from enduring persecution by man?
In the end it was decided that the cubs would come to Big Cat Rescue because we can make their story known. Our supporters are active in trying to change the laws that allow animal suffering. These three little orphans are symbolic of why we write letters, donate our time and do all that we do. Visit the page called Cat Laws to help.
DOB 1/1/96 – 10/1/14
Rescued 1/21/00 Cody and Missouri were rescued as a result of a divorce, in which they became the unwanted and abandoned dependents. They arrived here on January 21, 2000 and were filmed for Jack Hanna’s Wild Adventures which aired on May 6, 2000. Cody is very handsome. He and his mate Missouri, who has since passed on, are the only two Cougars at Big Cat Rescue that have solid black noses.
Cody is quite shy around people and will often retire to his cave den when visitors approach, he does however have a few Keepers that he is quite fond of and you can always see him acting fearless at dinner time.
Cody Cougar Had a Seizure
Cody is 18 years old and suffered a bad seizure. We brought him into the Cat Hospital for diagnostics to see if anything could be done to save his life.