Turpentine Creek – A Home for Rescued Big Cats in Northwest Arkansas

Entrance to Turpentine Creek Big Cat Sanctuary in Eureka Springs ArkansasTurpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge out in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas near Eureka Springs, is first of all, in a beautiful location. If you’ve never been to this part of the world, you really don’t know what you’re missing. It’s much of the reason Arkansas’s self-ascribed moniker is “The Natural State.”

About 450 acres in these rolling hills are home to more than 60 big cats, six black bears, a grizzly bear and a handful of other interesting creatures. Turpentine Creek is just not any old animal shelter. It’s the largest Big Cat sanctuary in North America and is certified by Global Federation of Wildlife Sanctuaries, the American Association of Zoo Keepers and similar organizations with the highest standards of animal care.

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A Home for Big Cats in Northwest Arkansas

White tiger at Turpentine Creek cat sanctuary in Eureka Springs ArkansasOf course, in an ideal world, these cats would be roaming the plains of Africa, the jungles of South America or wherever else their ancestors called home. But humans have messed that up permanently for the residents of Turpentine Creek.

So they are here. Turpentine Creek is heaven compared to what most of them experienced before.

One guy was kept in a cage his entire life, except for when he was brought out to wrestle with humans for money. Of course, to make sure the advantage was with the humans, he was completely declawed, his teeth filed down and his incisors removed.

Then there is a sweet white tiger everyone calls Mama because her roll in life was to give birth to cute lion cubs that paying customers could then hold and get their pictures taken with. Her entire adult life was spent pregnant and having her babies taken away.

Big Tiger at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Sanctuary in Eureka Springs ArkansasBut for some of them, their former residence wasn’t that bad. They had the complete run of the house. Literally. People were keeping big cats inside with them, like a regular house cat. So the people at Turpentine Creek actually had to go to their home and talk with the humans, helping them to understand why having a 400 pound wild animal with 3500 PSI bite strength running loose in your house is not a good idea.

Visiting Turpentine Creek Wildlife Sanctuary

Tigers playing in water at Turpentine Creek in Eureka SpringsIt was a hot summer day when I visited Turpentine Creek. The first big cat I saw was a white tiger playing with a ball in big livestock tank filled with water. Apparently tigers are the exception to the rule about cats hating water. Tigers love water and this guy appeared so happy. A few minutes later, I found him snoozing under the shade of a tree and I must admit, I was a little jealous of his good life.

A bear at the Turpentine Creek Cat Sanctuary in ArkansasWe saw other panthers, cougars, lions, tigers and even ligers — ya, that’s an unhealthy thing humans made happen — basically being lazy cats. Most were sleeping under shade trees, but some were stalking each other in the grass or eyeing bears from across the way.

While there’s plenty of lovely lodging in Eureka Springs, just about six miles away, it is possible to spend the night at Turpentine Creek within a few feet of these big boys and girls. Sleep in a cabin with all of the amenities or go glamping or camping on the grounds with the beautiful big animals.

That’s my plan the next time I visit northwest Arkansas. But if you beat me to it, be sure to let us know. And leave a big tip for the work that goes on here. These lions, tigers and bears are now safe and well-cared for because of donations from people like me and you.

That’s why a portion of the sale of the items listed below benefit Turpentine Creek and the wonderful creatures who make their home here in the Arkansas Ozarks.

A big cat with a big ball at Turpentine Creek Animal Sanctuary in Arkansas