The Wildcat Sanctuary moving to Pine County (Quist)
Embattled wildcat refuge moving to Pine County
The Wildcat Sanctuary, which sparked controversy in Isanti County, has found
a new location in Pine County.
Kevin Giles, Star Tribune
Last update: April 03, 2006 – 9:17 PM
A wildcat refuge embroiled in a zoning dispute in Isanti County is moving to
The Wildcat Sanctuary, which houses cougars, lynx and other large cats, is
planning an expanded habitat in Sandstone Township, Minn., where it has
purchased 40 acres of land, said sanctuary spokeswoman Gail Plewacki. Refuge
officials have begun moving the animals to the new location.
"We’re feeling excited about this home, we really are," she said Monday.
The sanctuary opened in Athens Township, Minn., in Isanti County five years
ago when founder and Minnesota native Tammy Quist moved it from Georgia. After
a dispute over the extended presence of a Bengal tiger named Meme, the
Athens Township board threatened to revoke the sanctuary’s operating permit.
Meme died of cancer in early March.
Quist said Monday evening that the sanctuary moved the first wildcats to Pine
County a week ago and hopes to be finished within a month. "The people here
have been just amazing," she said.
Roger Nelson, vice chairman of the Pine County Board, said the county is
secluded and has no zoning ordinance governing wildcats. He thinks the board
won’t consider one unless a problem arises.
"I’m not too concerned about it," said Nelson, a farmer. "The bigger problem
we have is with the natural predators, timberwolves and what not."
Quist said the new sanctuary eventually will house more wildcats than the
current one, which houses 19 cats on 3 acres behind trees and tall wire fences.
The sanctuary is not a zoo but a secure refuge for wildcats that Minnesotans
kept for pets or breeding and then abandoned. It subsists on private
Plewacki said that once the ground thaws, the fence will be removed at the
existing sanctuary and the property will be sold.
The private ownership and breeding of exotic animals is considered a serious
problem in Minnesota, but the sanctuary is the only accredited refuge in the
Plewacki said that the sanctuary last year found homes for 33 tigers, most
from Minnesota and Wisconsin, at refuges elsewhere in the United States. In
addition, the sanctuary fields about a dozen calls a week from private owners
who want to give away their wildcats, she said.
The Athens Township ordinance limited the sanctuary to 20 wildcats. The
presence of Meme, a Bengal tiger, led to a contentious public hearing that
attracted nearly 200 people in February. The township forbids tigers but said it
gave the sanctuary temporary verbal approval to house Meme after she was removed
from a corn crib in Redwood Falls, Minn. Quist and other sanctuary
supporters said they thought the approval was permanent.
"The good and bad of it is that everyone pretty much got what they wanted,"
Quist said of the move.
Kevin Giles • 612-673-7707
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
Sign our petition here:
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