Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Big Cat Rescue – Tampa Florida

There was one attraction in the Tampa area that we’d visited a couple of times before.  We’d enjoyed it so much we wanted to experience it one more time!

This is the entrance to Big Cat Rescue… One surprise to first time visitors is that this enclave for big cats occupies 67 acres in an urban area of Tampa with a shopping center, offices and homes located nearby.  Access to Big Cat Rescue is down a rough dirt and gravel road which is right off a busy multi-lane city street.

This organization, which is one of the world’s largest accredited sanctuaries for exotic cats, is a leading advocate in ending the abuse of captive big cats and saving wild cats from extinction.  The facility is home to about 80 Lions, Tigers, Leopards, Bobcats, Cougars, Servals and other species, most of whom have been abandoned, abused, orphaned, saved from being turned into fur coats, or retired from performing acts.  The sanctuary began rescuing exotic cats back in 1992.

The only way to visit Big Cat Rescue is to go on a tour.  The schedule is limited but several different types of tours are available.  The most common tour cost $36.00 per person.  However, our schedule was a bit tight and we had to choose the Feeding Tour ($65.00 each) or skip it all together… We made the right choice!

These were our guides during our tour.  The woman on the left was our actual tour guide and the woman on the right was the animal keeper who was responsible for feeding the cats.  We were fortunate that our group was fairly small.  It was relatively early in the morning and we avoided the most oppressive heat of this early September day…

Note: To keep stray and/or stupid visitors out of trouble, the tour guide led the way and the keeper kept us together at the back of the pack…  The enclosures used for these cats are secure but they aren’t separated from visitors like those in a zoo.

This is the food for the cats we would see fed on our tour.  Some of the big cats are on a special diet, others only eat chicken and some have much of their food chopped up due to a loss of teeth over the years.  Since there are over 80 cats at Big Cat Rescue, our one hour plus feeding tour only involved about 9 or 10 cats.

Our first big cat on the tour was this beautiful tiger.  He rumbled and grunted as the keeper approached with the food.  Each enclosure has an adjoining small caged area that is used for feeding.  The cats learn that this is the food and water spot in their world and it’s easier to control the process in this more confined area. 

Several of the cats were feed a ground meat mixture which was supplemented with chunks of raw meat offered to them on a stick.  The keeper was very cautious but she was quite close to these big cats…

The Tiger is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to 11.1 feet and at its extreme weighing up to 857 pounds in the wild.  There are or were 9 subspecies of Tigers in recent historic times.  Bali, Caspian and Javan Tigers are already extinct.  Bengal, Indochinese, Malayan, Siberian, South China and Sumatran varieties still exist.  The most “common” subspecies is the Bengal…with less than 3,000 remaining in the wild.  The most critically endangered subspecies is the South China Tiger.  None have been spotted in the wild in over 25 years and only 65 remain in captivity.

This is a Serval… The Serval is a medium-sized African wild cat native to sub-Saharan Africa.  These are medium-sized cats, with a shoulder height of between 21 to 26 inches and weighing from 15 to 26 pounds in females, and from 20 to 40 pounds in males.  The Serval is considered common and it’s widely distributed throughout much of Africa, although it prefers savannahs and forest fringes.

I believe that this is a Lynx- Bobcat mix… There were a number of cats at Big Cat Rescue that are the result of interbreeding by ‘pet owners’. 

Bobcats are of course a North American wild cat.  They range from southern Canada to central Mexico, including most of the continental United States.  This adaptable predator inhabits wooded areas, as well as semi-desert, urban edge, forest edges, and swampland environments.  They are about twice the size of a domestic cat with big male Bobcats weighing in at as much as 40 pounds. 

This beautiful cougar is almost totally blind.  She knows her keepers voice and her own name.  She was very sweet but she’s also very large.  Her food had to be almost handed to her…and she took it like a lady.

There was a documented Cougar sighting in East Tennessee in August near the Kentucky border.  It was the first documented sighting of a cougar in Tennessee in 100 years.  There is no doubt however that this big cat, (weighing up to 140 pounds for a female and 200 pounds for a male), is making a comeback across the USA.

The Cougar has the largest range of any wild land animal in the Americas. Its range spans 110 degrees of latitude, from northern Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes. Its wide distribution stems from its adaptability to virtually every habitat type.  It is found in all forest types, as well as in lowland and mountainous deserts.  The Cougar prefers regions with dense underbrush, but it can live with little vegetation in open areas.

Big Cat Rescue has several leopards on their premises.  They are truly strong and handsome cats!  Females can weigh up to approximately 130 pounds and males can reach 200 pounds. 

Leopards live across a wide range in regions of sub-Saharan Africa, West Asia, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia to Siberia.  The leopard's success in the wild has been due to its well camouflaged fur, its opportunistic hunting behavior, broad diet, and strength to move heavy carcasses into trees.  They have adapted to various habitats ranging from rainforest to steppe and including arid and montane areas.  Because of habitat loss and pest control efforts, they are now listed as “Near Threatened” across their range…

The keeper had to be a bit cagey when she fed this Jaguar.  She would distract her with one hand and toss the food in with the other. 

The jaguar is the third-largest feline after the tiger and the lion, and the largest in the Americas.  The jaguar's present range extends from Southwestern United States and Mexico across much of Central America and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina.  Apart from a known and possibly breeding population in southeast Arizona and the boot heel of New Mexico, the cat has largely been extirpated from the United States since the early 20th century.

This is a near-threatened species with loss of habitat being its biggest problem.  A large male may weigh as much as 340 pounds but the smallest females may only weigh about 80 pounds.  The Jaguar is an opportunistic hunter and its diet encompasses at least 87 species.  This dietary variety is necessary due to the fact that much of this big cat’s range lacks larger ungulates such as deer and antelope. 

This beautiful cat is a Caracal.  The Caracal is a medium-sized wild cat that is around 3 foot 4 inches long and they can weigh up to between 35 and 40 pounds.  The Caracal is native to Africa, Central Asia, Southwest Asia and India.  The cat's name comes from the Turkish word "karakulak", which means "black ear".  They are great hunters and they can take down prey that is 2 to 3 times their size.  This cat is widely distributed across Africa, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia into India.

We didn’t feed any lions on our tour but we did pass an enclosure where this big lioness was resting.  Every cat has plenty of room and shade with lots of hiding spots if they feel like staying out of view.  Of course, unlike zoos, the cats aren’t ogled all day long so they don’t seem to mind some attention from visitors.

Lions are the second largest big cat, only surpassed by the Tiger.  Female Lions in the wild can weigh up to 280 pounds and a big male may weigh up to 550 pounds.  Estimates vary widely but there may be only about 20,000 Lions remaining in Africa and only about 523 remaining in India. 

The sanctuary actually has a ‘vacation area’ that many of the cats are rotated through.  It’s a much larger enclosure with lots to explore.  One problem they have with it is that some of the cats don’t want to return to their home enclosures after going on vacation.  We all know how they feel!

This big boy was just rolling around, rubbing the ground and making sweet little noises.  What a sweet cuddly Leopard!

Or maybe not!   We didn’t feed this leopard but we did stop to watch his performance along with our guides and two other keepers.  The keepers stressed that they can’t trust any of the cats and that this fellow likes the attention but he’d snag a keeper or visitor in a second if he could…

What’s with the tongue!  I believe that this is a Lynx or perhaps a Lynx mix.
The Lynx is closely related to the Bobcat with the Bobcat being included in the Lynx family.  There are 3 species of Lynx per se…the Eurasian, Iberian and Canadian.   Typically in the wild, Canadian Lynx weigh between 18 and 24 pounds. (We had a big male housecat that weighed 26 pounds!)  The Canadian Lynx is endangered in the USA.  The Eurasian Lynx is designated as a National Animal in Macedonia and in Romania.

Some of the cats at Big Cat Rescue are fairly shy but since most big cats, except lions, are solitary creatures, that shouldn’t surprise anyone.  This Ocelot looked very natural hiding among the ferns…

Ocelots are distributed throughout South America including the islands of Trinidad and Margarita as well as Central America, and Mexico.  It has been reported as far north as Texas and southern Arizona.  The ocelot is similar in appearance to a domestic cat but its fur resembles that of a clouded leopard or jaguar.  Because of that fact, it was once regarded as particularly valuable.  As a result, hundreds of thousands of ocelots were once killed for their fur.  The Ocelot was classified as a vulnerable species from 1972 until 1996 but now it is listed as being of least concern.

If you love cats or just animals in general, Big Cat Rescue is a great place to visit!  This non-profit is a well-run sanctuary and visitors help support its feline population.  Big Cat Rescue is located at 12802 Easy Street in Tampa Florida.  Phone: 212-209-3370.  Website:  They also publish a quarterly newspaper, The “Big Cat Times”, which can be delivered via the USPS or digitally.  They are also on Twitter at 

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a walk on the wild side!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave       


  1. As cat people, I think we would enjoy this - good to see that org's like this exist.

    1. It IS good to see..Just NOT THIS ONE..

    2. We've been there a few times, and it is a very nice place.

  2. BCR is a SCAM. Animals are used as pawns and stolen from their owners for money. Carol Baskin is a FRAUD and needs to be thrown in JAIL!!!!!

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  5. Sounds as if you have a fair amount of knowledge regarding the Big Cats and Lesser Cats of the World. I highly recommend at this time, before you embarrass yourself with with any further public raves or praise of Big Cat Rescue, that you extensively research this so called "non profit", as well as Ms Carole Baskin herself. I am confident if you were to gain as much knowledge about this Horribly run down facility and the Crazy individual at the helm, as your knowledge of its inhabitants, then you will know what most of us know. She hides her crimes and all her Scams well. She is also quite the expert when it comes to deception and telling lies that even she now believes..a result I suspect, of telling so many of them. I wonder where the skinning of many Cats has taken place at. I also wonder where her late husband, millionaire Don Lewis disappeared to many years ago. Of course,if you ask her, she has lies and stories to cover that up as well. Do yourself a favor. LEARN the ENTIRE AWFUL Truth before crediting her or Big Cat Rescue in the future.

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  7. Please do more research on Carol Baskin the founder of Big Cat Rescue. In the past she was a backyard breeder known for her bobcat babies sent in buckets. They were so poorly cared for they often died. She did not start out rescuing, but breeding and for her own vanity. Most of the cats are from her own breeding program and the public is funding her cattery! Most of the cats she rescues have already been in the public eye, so the money rolls in for her other agendas! Most, if not all the back stories of the cats are exaggerated. Sob stories brings in more donations. Where is that money going? It does not look as if it is going towards the animals! Again, please do more research before you praise this organization.


  9. Well, There certainly are a lot of negative opinions about this operation and its owner/founder. What can I say? We enjoyed our visit and the cats all appeared to be well cared for. I guess that all of Big Cat Rescue's employees and volunteers are either in the scam or they are all dupes! This operation has been there a long time and if it's as bad as everyone claims, either the County Humane Society or the Florida DNR should take action... End of this discussion from my viewpoint... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

    1. I apologize for all. We did not mean to make you feel as though you were under attack. It's just that we have all known the truth for many years. Carole has all the right(or wrong, depending on how you see it) people bought, paid for, and in her back pocket..who have allowed this to go on. And her to continue her Agenda, uninterrupted. Again, I offer up my personal apology. If you wish, I would be willing to send you some info in order to begin your own search..solid, documented evidence to back up what we have all stated take care also, my friend..if I may call you that?..

    2. David, you write so well. PLEASE go to bcrwatch. com and read the truth about this organization and it's founder, who is suspected of forgery, perjury, and even murder in the disappearance of her millionaire husband who disappeared after buying $95,000 worth of exotic cats for her collection (which she then converted to "rescues") then asking for a divorce and an order of protection when she threatened to kill him. She is well connected and has gotten away with all this and much more including deceit and fraud or many years. Her family takes $250,000 a year in salaries while only 18% of donations go to the care of the cats. Please watch the videos, read the supporting documents, and be the voice of truth. Those of us who know the truth understandably cringe when we see this place (thus it's founder) glorified in the press. I believe you will feel the same way if you research the truth.

    3. Dave, there is a very large amount of people who go around various websites and do nothing but say bad things about BCR. These are the people who believe in private cat ownership (something BCR is against). BCR is a great place and I am glad you have been there to see that for yourself.

    4. If our mission was simply to care for the animals we take in those pages would not exist. But our two part mission is much broader. Our first duty is to give the best home we can to the roughly 100 animals we can provide a home for at the sanctuary. But the second part of our mission, to which we devote enormous resources, is to impact the lives of thousands of animals by working to end the widespread mistreatment of big cats in captivity. We do that by taking on the bad guys who are causing these animals misery. We do it in the following ways:
      Howard-Carole-Baskin-DC-2013-Capitol-stepsAdvocating for stronger regulations. For instance, we have actively worked with a number of the major animal welfare organizations to submit to USDA a 70+ page petition documenting why cub petting is abusive and why USDA should change its rules to forbid it as part of USDA’s mandate under the Animal Welfare Act to create rules to insure humane treatment of animals.
      Advocating for laws banning private ownership of big cats in roadside zoos and as pets. We have testified at hearings and organized grass roots campaigns to support state bans. But most of our effort has gone into being one of the leading entities urging Congress to pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act that would phase out ownership by roadside zoos and big cats in back yards as pets. Federal bills typically take a number of sessions of Congress to pass, building support momentum over a period of years. At the end of the 2012 session the bill had 60 cosponsors in the House of Representatives. At the end of the 2014 session support had almost doubled to 119, over 25% of the legislators in the House. The bill was introduced in the 2016 session in September 2015. You can read about the bill HERE and help by easily contacting your legislators HERE.
      When we detect situations we view as abusive like ripping tiny tiger cubs from their mothers at birth so ‘exhibitors” can make money forcing the often sleep deprived cubs to be petted or even swim with customers, or other traveling displays or circus style acts using big cats, we ask supporters to email and call the venues that allow these displays to show the venues that the majority of people view these as abusive. With the amazing help of our “Advocats” who take the time to make these calls and send these emails, we have gotten the owners of over 200 malls and fairs to no longer allow such displays. Major corporations like Citigroup and Porsche have agreed not to have such displays at corporate events after we educated them about the evils of these displays.
      We have sued in federal court what we view as one of the most notorious tiger cub exploiters in the world, won a $1mm judgment, and are currently pursuing him to collect what we can.
      Our Founder and staff are regularly interviewed as experts for news stories on issues related to big cats in captivity and we proactively comment online, sometimes positively and sometimes correcting articles that fail to accurately portray the plight of the big cats.
      Being a leader in the fight to stop the abuse puts a target on the back of Big Cat Rescue and its Founder. The people who make money exhibiting big cats and selfishly wanting to own them as pets have no arguments that resonate with the public to justify their greed and selfishness. The only defense they can come up with is to try to discredit Big Cat Rescue online by posting lies. The fact that so much time and energy is put into these websites trashing BCR is a testimony to the fact that we are being EFFECTIVE! If we were not, would they spend the time?

      Learn more here:.

    5. "The people who make money exhibiting big cats and selfishly wanting to own them as pets have no arguments that resonate with the public to justify their greed and selfishness. The only defense they can come up with is to try to discredit Big Cat Rescue online by posting lies". This can only be coming from CEO Carole Baskin herself so I will direct my comments and questions to her.

      I and many others speaking out against you Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue do not exhibit big cats or want to own them as pets. I have no exotic animals and I don't give a flying figg about the laws you pass as it will not affect my life in any way. What I care about are hard working animal lovers being duped by a smooth talking con artist into supporting lies, deceit, fraud and cats that were bought and bred and then claimed to be rescued.
      The website I sent Dave to, bigcatrescuewatch dot com, clearly states that if anything can be proven to be a lie it will be deleted immediately. I have read the research on this website viewed the news reports, videos and legal documents and read the statements from former staff and volunteers and am personally 100% convinced that it is not lies.

      Carole can clear the 'lies' up easily enough by answering questions with a simple yes or no instead of writing endless essays of excuses and nonsensical explanations with absolutely no proof of anything she says.

      Carole, have you ever been suspected of notary fraud, perjury, forgery, or murder? Did you refuse to take a lie detector test to clear you name and end the speculation? Would you do so now?

      Regarding your missing millionaire husband Don Lewis; was he married with children when you met him? Did you carry on an affair with him for 10 years with no regard for his wife or children? Did Don help buy you $95,000 worth of exotic cats from fur farms, auctions, and private breeders for your private collection? Did Don want to divorce you? Did Don disappear after filing for an order of protection against you? Did a subsequent lover also file for an order of protection against you, stating he feared for his life? Did you inherit your husband's millions after having him declared dead? Do you know where his body is?

      Regarding the cats. Do you tell donors that most of their donations go to support the cats? Do you, your mother, father, husband, daughter, and possibly your brother and his daughter all take hefty salaries from BCR? Do you tell donors that you are dedicated entirely to abused and abandoned cats? Do you believe it is ethical to buy cats, breed them, and lead people to believe they were rescued? Were the 148 cats you started with..the majority of them born there or bought as tiny kittens.. abused or abandoned? Did you sell most of the now infamous "rescued" fur farm kittens or did you give them sanctuary? Have you invented sob stories about cat for donations? Are former owners, breeders, sellers, past staff and volunteers all liars and you are the only one telling the truth?

      And finally, do you think a person of questionable character and integrity should be in charge of an organization bringing in millions of dollars in donations?

  10. David, these people are telling you the truth. People ARE duped and persuaded by the marketing genius of the CEO. Please go to bcrwatch dot com and read the truth. Pay special attention to the 'changing cat stories' and to the 'missing husband' categories on the menu.If you message the administrator of the site he will answer any questions you may have.

  11. I WOULD HOPE THAT people would really look at the animals and how they are cared for ,,,,also the facility itself , BCR is the only place that can have cats in mud and water and get away with it....if any of us has a puddle we would be written up......if we put a leopard in an OPEN TOP ENCLOSURE we would more then likely lose our license , CAROLE not only said when she was reported that she had permission but was not even given a citation........for someone who calls herself an EXPERT that is something you learn the first day you start being interested in exotic cats. then there are all the deaths of her every news magazine there are 4 or 5 going over that rainbow bridge...and i guess their skins go in the skin drawers.she so proudly displays and talks about.....for an animal lover she sure has some funny ways of showing it...She will get a cat young or old and they will die in less then a yr of either kidney failure or liver failure......I WOULD GUESS this new cat she has stolen from a grieving owner will not make it to the new year. she started asking for donations as soon as she was given the cat. and told the TV station a sob story that was fiction ,,,the animal when unloaded was drugged not weak for abuse etc, it sure was interesting that she took this one and one of her cats walked over that rainbow bridge.....that bridge get a lot of traffic from it appears that the preferred select few who got these cats from ODA are going to come into some big seems the tax payers are going to finance these animals with a new bonus to ODA for the care of these cats ,so maybe this cat has to live in order to collect , hope they chipped her so they can tell who she is. ----- i have always said she is a slick business woman, and the proof is the millions donated to BCR. also buying a membership into HSUS animal rights groups buys her protection .......when you have the BIG DOGS covering for you , you can do what ever you want and get away with it.....she however did not get TONY THE TIGER.....that man fought for that cat to the point that he had a heart attack and almost died but BCR followers went to his place and filmed the cat who lives better then most middle class families and tried to discredit the place,,,,,his owner fought for 5 yrs. and all this time she was asking for donations and getting them for a cage for TONY when she got him........just in case you do not know tony , he lives in a very large grass enclosure with a pool and an air conditioned room should he want to get out of the heat, he has a freezer/cooler for his meat and supplies...and a vet and a full time grounds keeper and pool man.....thank god his owner love him enough to put his life on the line and his money....

  12. What a wonderful blog post! I am so glad you enjoyed your visit! I'm planning to go there myself in the near future and your post was very inspiring, only making me want to get there sooner!

    All of this hate spam just made me laugh. Big Cat Rescue is a wonderful place and they care for they cats, no matter how young or old the residents are. Every life matters there. It's funny how people claim all the cats are forced to live in mud while every single one of the enclosures have trees and higher platforms. Well, I'm sure I don't need to tell you all this, for you have been there yourself, Dave. You have been there and you know how things are. You don't need to listen to other people's lies about something you have witnessed yourself. :)

    Thank you for this wonderful read! I hope you'll be able to visit there again soon!

  13. Unknown, my response was rather nice nor did I mention the horrible sins Carol has gotten away with. I started hating Carol when she introduced a ban in California which would kill or my early generation Bengal would be places in a sanctuary with lions and tigers! My savannahs and Bengals are domestic pets and do not belong in a sanctuary! Nor should they be killed because of their early generation! What type of sick animal right organizations write a ban to mass kill a breed of cats! What is wrong with you people you would support something that evil.

    How does BCR care about animals? Explain why none of the "caring" volunteers or employees did not notify the authorities of the illegal slaught house on the adjacent property. A employee went on camera stating they heard the animals terrified cries and even fortified the shared wall because of stray bullet. It is hard to miss the giant boneyard grave of deceased animals leaning up against the fence! How is that caring when they turn their backs on those helpless animals screaming for help?
    What about the rabbits and rats she live feeds? She has been told by countless rehabilitation experts this is not needed. Nor will the bobcats come into contact with white rabbit in the wild. Nor do domestic bunnies show the same behaviors as wild ones! How is that not abuse!

    Where and what happened to her husband? That sign on the hill where her septic tank is shows she no morals at all. Did she feed him to her cats? She forged the Power of Attorney papers and screwed his children out of their share their inheritance. She was Lewis's whore for ten years. I guess she did not appreciate when he cheated on her. When she knew he was going to leave her, she killed him. Worse, she basically flipped up her middle finger up to his family.

    They did not save those cats, they were bought for breeding. Almost all of them are from her breeding program, and they were not abused. Most of the back stories are lies. A sob stories get gullible people to open their wallets up to fund her cattery. I love how on her page she does not mention her own violations. Or that Jamanji almost killed a volunteer and was Jamie's pet. She got some snuck to pay for him the rest of his life! I pay for my own pets, she should too! She is a millionaire, and married one. I guess the new one has not pissed her off enough to make him disappear yet.

    Her sanctuary is a roadside zoo. It is open to the public. It is a joke. I live in California and if the cages flooded like that it would be shut down. Some of the cages not seen by the public have igloo plastic dog houses in them. How cheap is that! Why can she not fix all that! How could she not have a million violations? My guess is she pays off her inspector.

    BCR was a dump so all the cats are swimming in contaminated water. Why do you think so many died of cancer, tumors, or kidney failure? If that is not bad enough she skins the dead cats and keep their pelts!

    Can anyone have worse taste in clothes?! She looks like a bag lady!!! I have seen homeless people with better taste. She also has serious anger issues. At least two ex boyfriends and the husband she murdered took or tried to take restraining orders against her.

    Anyone that thinks she is a good person is crazy! She could care less about the bonds of marriage, she hears voices as she admits in a interview, she has anger issues, is a liar, manipulates people, selfish, vengeful, and is a loon. Still think BCR is great!?

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