Lion, tigers and bear, OH MY!
Published: July 03, 2007 07:24 pm
Agents seize seven animals from unlicensed operator
By Michael R. Moser / firstname.lastname@example.org
Concern for the safety of area residents coupled with alleged violations of state and federal permit laws caused agents from multiple agencies to act quickly Friday and seize an African lion, three tigers, a cougar, a black leopard and a brown bear from a Cumberland County upstart attraction.
Agents and officers were on the scene for about 20 hours as they executed a search warrant at 1001 A. Goss Rd., off the Genesis Rd. end of Potato Farm Rd., and recovered the animals. No charges have been filed against the owner, Carla Campbell, who with her husband, Tim, own Campbell‘s Wildlife Canyon, because the investigation is continuing, public information officer Dan Hicks of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency told the Chronicle Tuesday.
Hicks added that he was reluctant to discuss potential charges, or whether the case will be presented as a civil action or as criminal charges. Federal, state and local officials were involved in execution of the search warrant and seizure of the animals.
"The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) agents contacted TWRA after a local resident signed a receipt for two of the animals," Hicks said. "That sent up red flags all over the place. Two of our agents went to the property and observed a brown bear, and based on what they saw, obtained a search warrant for the property."
TWRA Officer Casey Mullens appeared before Cumberland County General Sessions Court Judge Larry Warner and around 12:30 p.m. Friday obtained a search warrant for Campbell Wildlife Canyon. The warrant goes on to state that the Campbells purchased from Tim Seegers of Fort Lawn, SC, and received three tigers and one bear. When officers returned they discovered not only the large bear, but the six cats. One sheriff’s deputy estimated the tiger weighed about 350 pounds or more.
"This lady has been told they cannot do this," Hicks said. "She is down in this real remote area and hid the animals from us. Can you imagine what a problem and danger to the community it would have been if one of those animals had escaped and gotten into the canyon?" Hicks said. He added that the property is part of the Catoosa Canyon area, a rugged and remote section of the county.
In addition to TWRA and the sheriff’s department, the Knoxville Zoo, Tiger Haven and University of Tennessee veterinary school were called to assist officers with sedating and removing the animals. The Cumberland County Fire Department was called to the scene to provide officers with a Gator ATV to reach the remote site where the caged animals were kept. Also responding was Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency. A skidder used in logging operations was commadeered with permission from Miller Excavation and the animals were sedated one at a time and brought out of the canyon on the skidder or the Gator, Hicks said. "It was quite an ordeal," Hicks said. "On top of that, they had to work in the rain part of the time Friday.
"The animals have all been taken to a safe and permitted place," Hicks said. The cats were taken to Tiger Haven in Roane County while the bear was taken to the zoo in Knoxville.
Campbell‘s Wildlife Canyon purchased a full page color advertisement in the new phone book published this year and circulated this month. The ad invites the public to "Come take a walk on the wild side," and promotes a petting zoo, trail rides, exhibits, pet store, gift shop, rustic rental cabins, pickin’ barn and more. The site is reportedly open seven days a week.
A call to the number listed on the ad was met with a taped-recorded message promotion Campbell‘s Wildlife Canyon as a private, non-profit animal refuge. Donation sites to help with the costs of care of animals are distributed throughout the county.
The Web site boasts over 50 acres being developed for a home to exotic animals as well as commercial ventures which they say would fund the non-profit organization the Campbell‘s created.
Attempts to contact the Campbells for comment were not successful Tuesday.