Heavy snow collapsed enclosures at Wildcat Sanctuary, but no animals escaped.
A tiger played in the snow at the Wildcat Sanctuary, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013 in Sandstone.
Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune
Heavy snow has inflicted considerable damage at the sanctuary where many of Minnesota’s most dangerous wildcats are kept, but no animals escaped, the sanctuary’s manager said Monday.
Several hybrid enclosures that contain domestic cats collapsed after more than two feet of ice and snow built up on the roofs of the enclosures late last week. Quarantine enclosures were also damaged, said Executive Director Tammy Thies. Repairs could cost $100,000, she said.
The Wildcat Sanctuary, near Sandstone in Pine County, is a nonprofit refuge for lions, tigers, cougars, jaguars, lynx and other big cats that once were kept as private pets in several Minnesota counties. The sanctuary isn’t open to the public and is funded through private donations.
Five enclosures could need replacement and several more need repairs, Thies said. Those enclosures housed smaller cats, she said.
She said the damaged outdoor enclosures did exactly what they were supposed to do when they collapsed. “The enclosures are designed to concave when damaged,” she said. “And that is exactly what happened. All the cats were snuggled safely in their buildings and dens avoiding the elements.”
The Wildcat Sanctuary is accredited and enclosures are built to zoo standards in an effort to prevent escapes resulting from any natural disasters, Thies said.
Lions and tigers were inside their concrete and steel buildings during the recent storm and there was no damage to their enclosures, Thies said.
Thies said the Sanctuary implemented its crisis communication plan immediately after recognizing the damage, with staff and volunteers taking steps to ensure that no cats got loose.
Another 7-10” of ice and heavy snow was forecast Monday night in Pine County.
Donations are needed to rebuild, Thies said, at www.wildcatsanctuary.org/ or on the Sanctuary’s Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/wildcatsanctuary.
Storm update: Thanks to countless staff and volunteer hours, we were able to salvage many of the enclosures by jacking up the ceilings, adding additional supports and patching holes. In the end, only one enclosure was a total loss. This quick response from so many saved us from having to demolish and rebuild which was our initial assessment and would have been devastating to us financially.
Thank you to our staff, volunteers and all of you who supported us through this recovery! It is so much appreciated. Your gifts will continue to help the cats and their daily care!