Spirit of the Hills

RESCUE of 7 exotic cats from South Dakota!

The cats arrived at Big Cat Rescue at 6:45 am

spirit of the hills bobcat


Sassy cougar came by her name honestly, it appears
Meet Sassy Cougar

We haven’t been able to announce this until today (October 17, 2016) but we are in the process of rescuing 7 exotic cats from a troubled facility in Spearfish, South Dakota called Spirit of the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary. The 4 bobcats and 2 cougars just arrived from South Dakota thanks to Bobbi Brink and crew from Lions, Tigers & Bears, in Alpine, CA driving through the day and night. We drove up last night to meet them at the Florida border around 3 am and escorted them in.

They were offloaded into their new enclosures at Big Cat Rescue early this morning.

Spirit of the Hills has been in the news this month for two reasons. First for a USDA inspection that resulted in the facility surrendering its exotic cats, bears and wolf hybrid and having its USDA license revoked. And second because one of their tigers became loose late at night and mauled the sanctuary’s director; the tiger was later shot to death by authorities responding to the emergency.

On September 28, 2016 USDA visited Spirit of the Hills for a routine inspection and reportedly found issues affecting the exotic cats and other exotic animals that were significant enough to warrant their removal. USDA remained at the facility for several days.

On October 3, 2016, local South Dakota authorities received a 911 call from the sanctuary about 11:30 p.m. reporting a tiger on the loose. When deputies arrived, they found sanctuary director Mike Welchynski had been bitten several times by the tiger named Boomer. Deputies found the tiger, which had escaped his enclosure through an open gate, and shot him when he tried to escape.

USDA revoked Spirit of the Hills’ license on October 5th.

Spirit of the Hills relinquished 11 exotic animals initially, including several big cats. Those were taken to The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado.  Other big cats were taken to Keepers of the Wild in Arizona.

Big Cat Rescue agreed to take in 7 cats – 4 bobcats, 2 cougars and 1 leopard. We have limited information about these cats. We will evaluate them all once they get settled in. We also don’t know their ages, gender or how long they have been at Spirit of the Hills.

Meet the baby of the bunch: Nabisco Bobcat

Smalls is the smallest of the bunch

He was reportedly being kept as a pet, after being brought in from the Crow Peak fire, and was housed with a much larger male bobcat named Smalls.  Upon arrival we put them in the same enclosure, but Nabisco was too small for the 4 x 4 wire.  He only weighs 9 lbs so most of his size was fluff.  We moved him next door into a 2 x 4 wire (opening) enclosure until he’s a bit bigger.  We are thinking he might like to live w/ Ms Claws better, since they are the same size and energy level.  More about Nabisco Bobcat

Meet Smalls Bobcat (she’s in the wire trap)


Smalls had been found drowning in a creek in Wyoming before going to Spirit of the Hills in SD before her final destination at Big Cat Rescue.  Find out more about Smalls Bobcat at

Meet Dryden or Kewlona Bobcat


Meet Kewlona.  She and Dryden, her brother, were found in Wyoming near the dead bodies of their mom and two siblings.   They were sent to Spirit of the Hills in SD back in June of 2015 before their final destination at Big Cat Rescue.  Find out more about Dryden and Kewlona at and

Meet Josie Cougar


Josie Cougar-in 2004 Josie came to SOTH from Ken and Nancy Kraft in Minnesota. estimated 14 years of age. Josie is spayed.  Keith Kraft, who had owned BEARCAT Hollow in Racine, Minn., had pleaded guilty to falsifying records and conspiracy and was convicted of two counts of witness tampering in connection with the case. Kraft and eight others, including his wife, Nancy Kraft, were accused of illegally trafficking animals, including 17 tigers, seven leopards, five grizzly bears and dead animals and animal skins between 1999 and 2003.  The Krafts became infamous for their part in Operation Snow Plow and for selling the Tiger to the Harlem apartment owner, who made news when the police had to scale the side of the building to tranquilize the tiger after it bit the owner.  Find out more about Josie Cougar at

Meet Sassy Cougar

Sassy Cougar- she came to SOTH in 2001 from Jim and Judy Morrow of Wildcat Valley Sanctuary of the Black Hills, Keystone South Dakota. She’s 17+ estimate. She is spayed. Sassy had already had the tips of her ears frozen off by the time she came to live Jim & Judy in 1999. Judy Penland Morrow died of cancer in July 2009. The last mention I found of Jim Morrow was in an April 2011 interview: at that time, he still owned six large cats, but he had transferred them to Spirit of the Hills Sanctuary in the Northern Hills for safe-keeping. He was having health issues of his own; and without Judy, he told the interviewer, his heart just wasn’t in Wildcat Valley anymore.  Learn more about Sassy Cougar at


Apparently the leopard named Cassora had her paws butchered by a previous owner, and she was not brought to us today, but rather will go straight to Dr. Jennifer Conrad, DVM in CA.  She may end up here in the long run, but that will be a bit of a logistical nightmare.

Give to Big Cat RescueCan we count on you to help Big Cat Rescue pay for the transportation and lifetime care of these cats by donating? The transport costs alone ran about $6,500.  It is because of your generous support that we are able to readily say YES when we learn of exotic cats like these in need of rescuing.

It was a tough trip for Dryden and Kewlona, but a good long bath and a nap will help.

We understand that not everyone is in a position to donate financially to help exotic cats, but everyone can donate a few minutes of their time and make a huge difference in the lives of captive big cats by asking Congress to ban the private trade in big cats that causes them to end up in need of rescue at If you’ve already emailed your Senators and House Rep before, please do so again and again, each week until they pass the bill!



October 4, 2016

October 5, 2016

October 6, 2016

October 6, 2016

October 7, 2016

October 8, 2016

October 15, 2016

The following were LIVE Facebook feeds during the new cats’ introduction to paradise at Big Cat Rescue.

Meet Nabisco the Baby Bobcat

Meet Dryden or Kewlona Bobcat

Meet Josie Cougar

Meet Sassy Cougar


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