Lindale News Times Published 2016-02-18 / Front Page
A couple of the beautiful, big cats at Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge.For the past 20-plus years, Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge, located a few miles to the east of Lindale off of FM 14 near the intersection of FM 16, has rescued and rehabilitated abused and neglected big cats.
Now, those involved with Tiger Creek have ambitious plans for the future which include a resort, a tiger orientation education center, an animal care building and a quarantine area.
Founder and executive director Brian Werner said the additions will help ensure these big cats will continue to enjoy the care and attention they deserve.
“I’ve always said that God’s been watching out for us,’’ Werner said. “And He’s allowed us to provide dignity and care for some of his animals.’’
The expansion, Werner said, fits into Tiger Creek’s philosophy: “Saving Tigers One By One.’’
The Tiger Creek Safari Resort will help with cash flow, while the other projects – the nonprofit side – will help continue with the education side of Tiger Creek.
“The safari part is something we’ve needed to build for quite some time,’’ Werner said. “We have people come from all over the world and (lodging) just makes sense.’’
Werner said the resort – a Living Resort with an Exotic Experience – will feature cabins, safari tents and provide a “unique experience’’ for visitors.
The facility plan includes a theater room that also serves as a teaching facility where groups of people can watch documentaries on the species of animals they will be seeing in the rescue facility.
Tiger Creek officials are also working on an outreach program for the tigers in the wild, as well as genetic research. Internship opportunities are available as well.
IN THE BEGINNING
While still in the Navy in 1989, Werner bought the land that would become Tiger Creek and upon his honorable discharge in 1991, began making plans for his rescue operation.
“When I got out of the military, I was running a farm stand and selling produce,’’ Werner said. “This expanded into a mini-hatchery with waterfowl and birds.’’
He would take his surplus to auctions where he noticed tigers were being auctioned off by people who couldn’t maintain their care.
Werner stepped in and took over the care of his first tiger.
“Then one led to another and now we have 44 big cats in our facility,’’ he said. He became well-versed in how to care for the big cats by doing lots of research.
“Leaders are readers,’’ he said. “I knew about animal husbandry and the management of big cats, but I never had any practical applications until I got that first one.’’
Stretching over 140 acres, Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge offers visitors the chance to see big cats such as tigers, cougars, leopards and other big felines, in their natural habitat.
Werner said Tiger Creek networks with conservationists, biologists, zoos and noted animal research universities such as Texas A&M University to help protect these big cats.
Has Werner ever been afraid in dealing with these big cats?
“The way I see it, they are endangered not dangerous,’’ he said. “You learn to recognize their behavior and you have to judge for yourself to what is the best way to approach them.’’
Werner said Tiger Creek’s purpose is “promoting stewardship through educational opportunities for people of all ages.’’
And after 20-plus years, Werner continues to feel blessed.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like to get a real job,’’ he said.