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Cougars at Arkansas facility

By Kristin Nelson, KY3 News
Story Published: Apr 17, 2009 at 6:04 AM CDT
Story Updated: Apr 17, 2009 at 10:33 AM CDT

EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. — She appears as tame as a kitty except for one big difference — her size.

“You’re a good girl. You’re ready to get in your habitat,” said Tanya Smith, president of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.

This cougar has taken a liking to Smith, just like all the animals at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.

“Right now, we have about 120 lions, tigers, cougars, leopards, just a variety of other animals. We have three bears, a monkey, birds, deer the list goes on and on of animals that need saving,” said Smith.

Many of the animals were abandoned by their owners who could no longer care for them.

“Most of the time we’re told, if the refuge wasn’t here or can’t take animals, they would have to be put down,” said Smith.

More than 100 animals are on the waiting list to get in. Once they’re here, life for these big cats is pretty good. They eat, sleep and relax, though several of them don’t have much room.

The cats have been in cages ever since they got to Wildlife Refuge and, come Saturday, they’ll take their first steps on grass.

“This big habitat you’re seeing right now is going to be a great playground for these animals to get to run and play,” said Smith.

Some of the cats have been caged up for five or 10 years, partly because staff had to get the cats to play nice with each other.

“It took us a long time to get five or six cats we have to intermingle together,” said Smith.

Smith says, when watching them roam free for the first time, there’s nothing like it.

“It’s so heartwarming to see the animals out and know you actually made a difference in their lives,” said Smith.

The grand opening of the second cougar exhibit is at 3 on Saturday. The cost for admission is $15 for adults, $10 for kids, and children 3 years and under are free.

http://www.ky3.com/news/local/43167437.html

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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://bigcatrescue.org

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