Sunday, October 30, 2016

Winter Preperations

We have survived the intense summer heat and the swarms of mosquitos and fire ants. Now it is clear that the seasons are changing as we move through the cool but brief Texas fall into the more biting cold of winter. Even in this month of October, some nights have temperatures below comfortable T-shirt weather, and on the following mornings it is even possible to see one’s breath. While this is still Texas, so incredibly hot days follow these spurts of chill, the cold will only become more common as the months continue. As the days tend to get colder, the staff and the animals at the Sanctuary take several measures to prepare for the oncoming winter season.

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One of the first measures taken is adding hay to the animals’ houses. The smaller non-feline animals have already gotten hay into their houses, starting last week. These include our three coatimundis, our ring-tailed lemur Popeye, and Cappy the Capybara. The coatis were even given blankets to snuggle with in their homes. Once the weather becomes consistently around 40 degrees, the larger animals will receive hay as well. This hay will get changed once a week when the houses are cleaned, as well as being spot-cleaned as needed.

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Once the night-time temperature drops to 55 degrees or below, heat lamps are hooked up to the houses of the smaller animals, which again include the coatis, lemur, and capybara. A few weeks later when the cold becomes more consistent, the smaller cats, such as our ocelots, and our older cats, such as Makeen the Bengal tiger, start using heat lamps as well. The lamps are turned on around six o’clock at night and unplugged in the morning once the sun begins to warm the Sanctuary.

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The diets of the animals change when the weather gets colder. More energy is needed to keep warm and stay active in the winter, so the cats start getting fed more meat as the keepers see that the animals don’t leave a single crumb from their morning meal. The food charts in the morning are constantly being adjusted at this time and more meat is pulled daily for diet preparation. The bears as well begin eating more to prepare for winter. Because this is Texas, our bears will not go into a full hibernation. Rather, they go into “torpor,” which is a state of decreased activity, resulting in a lower body temperature and lower metabolic rate. When this happens, the bears will require less food and won’t get fed every single day.

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The bears start spending a lot of time in their dens once winter comes. Their den floors get littered with hay for added warmth and comfort. The dens are scattered throughout the 5 acres of the bear territory, from the feeding areas to deep in the woods. Each bear has established its own den in its own self-proclaimed territory. Because of torpor, the bears will spend a lot of winter sleeping in their dens to save energy. 

With all of this preparation going on, we need a little extra help! You can visit to see how you can donate and help all the residents get through an unpredictable Texas winter! Every little bit helps.

Stay warm!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Why Do Big Cats Roar?

Here at IEAS, we have many different species of cats with different vocalizations. It turns out that not all of our cats roar! There are only four species of feline that have the ability to roar: lions, tigers, jaguars, and leopards. Currently, we are home to three out of the four species that roar! The lion is the only feline that roars habitually- Every morning and evening Odin (our male lion) can be heard roaring.

Odin, our male lion, giving a nice big roar
According to the National Wildlife Federation, these large cats have tough cartilage running the length of their hyoid bone up to their skull that prevents purring. They also have an incompletely ossified hyoid bone, allowing them to roar. This is one of the distinctions between the genera Felis and Panthera.


Hyoid bone
There are five species of Panthera; their common names are: Lion, Tiger, Jaguar, Leopard, and Snow Leopard. All five species of Panthera are on the IUCN Red List (, an organization which tracks the threat level of known species. The Felis genera are not only are able to purr, but also have pupils that narrow into slits when contracted. The snow leopard is an
exception to the Panthera rule: they have incompletely ossified hyoid bones, but aren’t quite able to roar, nor are they able to purr.

Wiki, our resident Jaguar (left) and Karen, one of our resident White Bengal Tigers (right).
Interestingly, cheetahs have the ability to purr, but are classified in their own genera (Acinonyx) because their claws cannot retract. Cheetahs are also unique because they make a “chirp” that sounds similar to a bird or my fellow intern, Lexi’s hiccups. Our resident cheetah, Mau, can be seen chirping in the morning around breakfast time. Be sure to check out his adorable videos on our website, or you can visit him on one of our tours everyday at 11:00 AM and an additional tour at 3:00 PM on Saturday. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to hear him in person!

Mau, starting his morning "chirps"

Author: Kate LeBlanc

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Introducing the Fall 2016 Interns!

We have seven new interns this fall. They have been here for about five weeks. This group of interns is from all over the US. They all have recently graduated and are pursuing a career in the animal world. Let’s meet the new interns!


Ashley is pictured here making our bear diets. She is from Westfield, Massachusetts. Ashley graduated from Delaware Valley University in May 2015 with a bachelor of science in conservation and wildlife management. Her future ambitions include working in a big cat rescue.
Favorite animal: Tiger
Favorite color: purple
Favorite food: pasta
Special talent: none
Hobbies: coloring, hiking
Countries traveled to: Aruba
Favorite movie: Nightmare Before Christmas
If she could be any mythical creature, she would be a mermaid.
If she could have a super power, it would be the power to control water.


Brenda is pictured placing the meat for the carnivores in bins to defrost overnight. Brenda is from Artesia, California. She graduated in May 2016 from Humboldt State University with a BS in Zoology. Her future ambitions include working in conservation and extinction prevention. Favorite animal: African Lion
Favorite color: green
Favorite food: frog legs
Special talent: fluent in Spanish
Hobbies: reading DC comics, hiking, duct tape crafts, collecting knives
Countries traveled to: Mexico, Canada
If she could be any mythical creature, she would be a dragon.
If she could have a super power, it would be the power of mimicry or absorption (can copy or take another’s powers).


Charlotte is pictured refueling the gator. She is from Suwanee, Georgia. Charlotte graduated in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in Animal Science with a minor in Chemistry from Berry College in Rome, Georgia. Her future ambitions include working in conservation of endangered species.
Favorite animal: Tiger
Favorite color: red
Favorite food: mashed potatoes
Special talent: innate sense of direction
Hobbies: reading, coloring, rock collecting, baking
Countries traveled to: Honduras, Canada
Favorite movie: The Lion King
If she could be any mythical creature, she would be a mermaid.
If she could have a super power, it would be the power of shape shifting.


Kate is pictured painting Rob’s (one of our ocelots) new house equipped with a heat lamp. She is from Jeffersonville, Vermont. She graduated from the University of Vermont with a BS in Animal Science. Her future ambitions include going to vet school and become a veterinarian.
Favorite animal: all animals except turkeys
Favorite color: purple
Favorite food: almonds
Special talent: dancing
Hobbies: dancing, hiking, rugby
Countries traveled to: Ecuador, Greece, Italy, France, Austria, Germany, Canada, and Switzerland
Favorite movie: Aristocats
If she could be any mythical creature, she would be a chimera.
If she could have a super power, it would be the power of flight.


Kayla is pictured here prepping special diets for some of the large cats with donated steak from Walmart. She is from Central Illinois. She graduated from the University of Illinois in May of 2016 with a degree of Animal Science. Her future ambitions include being a curator of her own sanctuary.
Favorite animal: goat
Favorite color: purple
Favorite food: coffee
Special talent: being funny
Hobbies: cooking, dancing, reading
Countries traveled to: none
Favorite movie: Fried Green Tomatoes
If she could be any mythical creature, she would be a hippogriff.
If she could have a super power, it would be the power of elasticity.


Lexi is sorting through loose sweets donated by Walmart for our grizzlies. She is from St. Louis, Missouri. She graduated in May from the Missouri University of Science and Technology with a BS in Biological Sciences and a minor in Chemistry. Her future ambitions include animal conservation on another continent. 
Favorite animal: cheetah
Favorite color: yellow
Favorite food: chocolate covered raisins
Special talent: hiccup like Mau
Hobbies: soccer, reading
Countries traveled to: Spain, Ireland, South Africa, and England
Favorite movie: Harry Potter
If she could be any mythical creature, she would be a phoenix.
If she could have a super power, it would be the power of invisibility.


Renee is pictured here prepping our “grizzly bucket” with meat for the next day. She is from Belvidere, New Jersey. She graduated May 2016 from Frostburg State University with a Bachelor of Science in Interpretive Biology and Natural History and minors in Spanish and Animal Behavior. Her future ambitions include working in animal conservation at Disney World.
Favorite animal: Panda
Favorite color: purple
Favorite food: Chinese pork steam buns
Special talent: can eat her weight in food
Hobbies: running, scary things, Asian culture
Countries traveled to: Australia, Guatemala
Favorite movie: Wreck-it-Ralph
If she could be any mythical creature, she would be a fairy.
If she could have a super power, it would be the power of flight.