cats generally feast on chicken parts or whole turkeys. But the sluggish economy and local producers’ increasing ability to eliminate waste and nearly spoiled product has impacted the refuge greatly, said Scott Smith, Tanya Smith’s husband and vice president of Turpentine Creek.
The refuge has been forced to buy about 6,000 pounds of meat a month during 2012, and Scott Smith has been searching as far away as Kansas and Minnesota for viable options.
Some have suggested that Smith maintain a cattle herd for cat-feeding purposes, but in his eyes, that would just create more hungry mouths. And people underestimate the sheer volume of meat Turpentine Creek goes through on a daily basis, Scott Smith said. Staff members have been butchering donated cows, usually downer animals, “but we can go through three cows in a day,” he said.
Beyond finding meat, which is a constant concern, refuge planners always face new challenges, but Scott Smith is proud of what’s been accomplished.
“We can put milestones anywhere along the way. … After 20 years, we do what we do so much better,” he said.
The mission of protecting big cats has remained constant over the refuge’s two decades, but how to best accomplish that goal has changed.
The cats were bred together in the early years of the park, but the Smiths agree it created the same kinds of problems they were trying to fix — cats in need of a home, using valuable resources.
“It’s occupying space that could be used for a rescue,” Scott Smith said.
The last cats born in the park were two tiger cubs, B.B. King and Mack, and a leopard, Spyke, that arrived in 2008 after rescued mothers delivered them. Most of the animals at Turpentine Creek are spayed or neutered, with the exception of several male lions. Those animals have had vasectomies but not been neutered, as neutered lions lose their illustrious manes. …