Celebrating 40 Years of Saving Lives!
Book Excerpt #3
[By 2013 the financially failing] resort had closed its animal exhibits and moved most of its 350 animals to other locations. [The Sanctuary agreed to take the three Kodiaks, as well as some black bears and mountain lions] so Pat Craig readied one of the big rigs and set out for Florida…Warned by the animal keeper about riling up the monstrous Kodiaks, the team quickly unloaded a transport cage at Max’s door hoping he would become accustomed to it, and then moved on to the easy part of the endeavor, loading up the five black bears and three mountain lions.
When Pat politely asked Max, Forest, and Jake to walk into their respective transport cages, as their black bear brethren had done, they politely declined. They were not going to enter strange cages under any circumstances. “Nope, nada, not a chance,” Pat remembers. The crew was not going to be able to load the Kodiaks without administering a sedative that could be reversed once each of the big bruins were securely in the trailer. Standard Sanctuary operating procedure in such cases is to roll the sleeping bear onto a reinforced nylon gurney with handles that are used to lift the animal through the door of the cage. As a rule of thumb, you could figure on needing about six people to lift an adult grizzly bear.
Max was tranquilized and the team of eight, including one giant of a man who could have been an offensive lineman for the Jacksonville Jaguars, positioned themselves around the bear. Then they braced their legs and set their backs into rolling Max onto the gurney. Max did not budge. At all. “It was hilarious,” says Pat, shaking his head.
Two people could take his whole leg and bend it all the way across his body to the ground and nothing would move, not even an inch. There was just so much mass in the center that it didn’t matter. There wasn’t enough leverage to move him…No matter what angle, how hard we pushed, or what strategy we employed, his body and head remained in the same spot where he went to sleep…After twenty minutes of insanely strenuous effort, and all eight people nearly passing out from the 97 percent humidity and 98 degree heat…I’m like, oh my God, now what are we going to do? Everybody is grabbing and tugging and pulling and it’s hot as hell and we’re all just dying, and we haven’t moved him an inch yet.
It was time to regroup and figure out plan B, which involved plywood, two by four pieces of lumber, a Waste Management Bagster rated for a 3,300 pound load, and a Telehandler. With the tools at hand, the reinvigorated team levered each bear onto the plywood using the two by fours and then dragged the bear down a narrow passage to a forklift. The forklift tipped the bear onto the Bagster, which was then hoisted over an adjacent sixteen foot tall fence by the Telehandler’s crane. To get each bear through the narrow door of the transport cage, the group flipped each cage on its side, removed the door to gain a few inches and lowered each bear down. Pat smiles, “Just like a big blob of Jell-O,” each bear “hit the door and gravity took over. Each massive beast slipped through its doorway like a buttered water balloon through grandma’s hands at a Fourth of July picnic.”
Bear in a “Bagster:” Max being lifted over the fence in Florida and the enormous Kodiaks arriving at the Sanctuary.
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Forever Wild, Forever Home invites readers to discover the magic of The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado, the premier large carnivore sanctuary in the world.
In 1980, Pat Craig rescued a baby jaguar he christened Freckles and took his first bold steps on a forty-year journey to combat the growing crisis of exotic animal captivity, abuse, and trafficking - one rescue at a time. Today more than 200 bears, 60 African lions, and 70 tigers, as well as jaguars, leopards, mountain lions, wolves, and other exotic animals, both large and small, enjoy peace, comfort, and contentment in enormous habitats on thousands of acres of The Wild Animal Sanctuary's prairie and canyonlands. Rescued from mostly horrific situations, they are survivors, with much to teach us about courage, resilience, and hope. Their lives resonate with our own.
With over 100 color photos, this absorbing, thoughtful, and timely narrative offers an unprecedented, behind-the-scenes look at what it is really like to care for wild carnivores. Both heartwarming and humorous, Forever Wild, Forever Home honors the nobility and wellbeing of the animals who call the Sanctuary home, and the heroic and gratifying labors of those who care for them.
Join Sanctuary teams on rescues of giant Alaskan Kodiak bears languishing in the Florida tropics, a lion held captive by a fortune teller in a tiny Mexican town, two big cats marooned and starving on a typhoon-ravaged island in the Pacific Ocean, and thirty-nine tigers owned by Joe Exotic, the "Tiger King" of Netflix fame. Meet Colo Colo, an angry African lion from Bolivia; Tasha Joy, a tiger who didn't know she was a tiger; the ever-busy grizzly bears, Tiny who tips the scales at 1,000 pounds and his friend Natasha; Diego, a white tiger; Jumanji, a black leopard; Lambert, a lion who finally learns to roar - and many more. Learn how the Mile into the Wild Walkway, the longest elevated pedestrian footbridge in the world, enables sky-high visitors to see wild animals in vast habitats; how staff and volunteers create cozy houses and unique playgrounds for the Sanctuary's (mostly) furry residents; and what happens when it's time for a large carnivore to visit the doctor or dentist.
At The Wild Animal Sanctuary, tigers chuff in greeting, bears bask under brilliantly blue skies, mountain lions purr with joy, and African lions roar in winter. The Sanctuary is often seen as the last hope for the animals who are rescued and brought here to their forever home. But the thousands of people who visit, support, work, and volunteer here know that this is the place where hope begins.