BRIAN D. BRIDGEFORD | Baraboo News Republic madison.com
ORIGINALLY POSTED: Tuesday, April 29, 2008 12:00 am
Area residents got a taste of the wild – from a safe distance – as the Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue and Educational Center opened to visitors for the first time over the weekend.
Founder Jeff Kozlowski and a crew of volunteers led visitors through the fenced-in sanctuary on the south edge of the village.
About two years ago, Kozlowski housed his cats on land east of the village, but he came into conflict with neighbors and county officials who said he did not have proper zoning and didn’t comply with rules governing exotic animals.
He established the new refuge after coming to an agreement with the Village Board on zoning regulations and rules for safe operation of the center.
Visitors walked past large pens housing animals including a white Bengal tiger named Isis, a black leopard called Dozer, and lion siblings called Pebbles and Bam Bam.
Most of the cats were lazily enjoying the spring sun, though some paced near the boundary of their pens, looking at the groups of people.
La Valle residents Heidi and Robert Osgood came to the center with their children, Jonathon, 5, and Kayden, 2. Robert Osgood said he had been following the development of the sanctuary for a while and decided to come for a visit when it opened.
They were impressed by the beauty of the big cats, their size and the efforts to protect them.
It’s surprising “in Wisconsin to see a big enclosure like this,” Osgood said.
Kozlowski is happy to have the sanctuary established and his animals settled in.
“Everything’s up and ready to go, just working the little kinks out, finding out what works best for the tours,” he said.
“The animals are happy, they’re in a safe area. Everybody’s getting along.”
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