“The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.”
– Jane Goodall
Pictured above: one of our male cougars, Harley
It dawned on me earlier this week that I have exactly one month left working at the WFAC. I had a ton of mixed emotions come to me. Obviously, I am sad and I don’t want this dream job to end. I’m feeling proud at all that I have learned in the past months, and I am also feeling pretty rewarded knowing that I have truly worked my butt off for these cats all summer to give them the best life they could possibly have.
In my last post about the sanctuary, I touched slightly on how its not all day spent playing with these cats. Getting to interact with the cats is a perk of being a part of the sanctuary, but the first order of business is to tend to them first. We volunteers are constantly cleaning enclosures, poop scooping, rearranging furniture in the enclosures, and constantly food prepping for the cats.
On a normal day, we feed out about 120 lbs of raw meat. Let’s do the math, 120×7= 840 lbs in a week. About 25,000 lbs in a month. About 300,000 in a year. We are very thankful to be a part of a food recycling program with local grocery stores in the area surrounding Harstine Island. Every Tuesday & Thursday, our director Mark drives to the stores to pick up shelf expired meat products that the store can no longer sell. The meat that has a expired shelf life is not technically expired, but the store can no longer legally sell it. Mark drives it back to the sanctuary where we separate the beef, poultry, and pork products then put them into our large walk-in freezer until they have been frozen for a couple weeks. Freezing them helps kill any bacteria living in the thawed meat. Our walk-in freezer is about 10×20 feet in size and is set at a shivering -10 degrees Fahrenheit. To prepare the food, bins will be removed from the freezer and prepared in similar bins. We usually prepare large bin, having equal amounts of chicken, beef, ground meat and pork, with about 10% fish in the bin. We will also prepare big cat food separately in buckets. For example, Suri, our Bengal tiger, eats about 9.5 lbs of meat a day. Tabbi, our Siberian/Bengal tiger, eats about 7.5 lbs a day. We feed out about 60 lbs in big cat food and the other 60 lbs is fed out to the small to medium sized cats.
Some cats have preferences on what they like to eat and what they don’t like. Our African Leopard, Turbo, refuses to eat anything with feathers or fur, and absolutely NO fish. So he sticks to chuck roasts and little game hens. Our tigers love to eat full racks of ribs or briskets. Our cougar cubs love fish, like most of our cougars, but they also get calcium powder sprinkled on their food since they didn’t grow up with their mothers milk. It helps keep a calcium deficiency out of the picture for the cubbies. Hannah, Harley, and Durango, our adult cougars, all enjoy large filets of salmon. Just about 3 weeks ago, our sanctuary got a donation of 500 lbs of Copper River Salmon. Hehe, our cougars love it! We get some outside donations, like the salmon, but not very often. Sometimes people will bring in extra meat they had left over after an elk kill or a deer kill. Our cats seem to love the venison, but that’s not a surprise because it’s probably close to what they’d eat in the wild.
All in all, us volunteers don’t spend our days rolling around with the cats. But we do put the cats first and always do our best to work for the cat and then get to admire them after we have tended to them. All the poop scooping, the raw meat handling, and cleaning is well worth it at the end of the day being able to be around these beautiful animals.
Thanks for reading this week’s update. I will try to update a couple more times before I end the summer at Wild Felid Advocacy Center. In the meantime, visit our Facebook page and website to set up a tour on any Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday! It is well worth the drive out to this gem!