Oh Deer

It's deer season in North Carolina. Although I am not a hunter, Carolina Tiger Rescue is fortunate to have a good network of hunters that bring fresh meat for the cats. I personally think that hunting is only validated if the hunter uses the animal in its entirety. Otherwise, I find it a waste of a precious life. I have come across many hunters who will kill multiple deer for one cut of meat when one doe would have delivered the meat of those six single cuts. The elimination of population surplus or choosing to not take down an animal for one cut is not an issue for the hunters that come to Carolina Tiger. During the season we get multiple deer brought in each week that go out to feed our cats. Tigers will get an entire torso or a deer leg (hoof to hip) in place of one chicken, and small cats will get small portions of one leg or the pelt of the animal. Preparation to feed usually takes about an hour, but once the truck is loaded up it usually looks like this:

Yesterday someone brought in a deer that had been hit on the road. Yes, it may sound strange, but if a person witnesses a deer getting killed on the road we will take it just like one taken down in a hunt. It makes sense to not waste the meat, and we are committed to taking care of our animals. Of course, we always remove the bullet(s) and ensure the meat is good prior to giving it to any animal. It is just another facet of the circle of life at Carolina Tiger Rescue.

We "dress" a deer in similar fashion to a hunter... we skin the animal, remove the internal organs (in the wild cats do not usually consume the intestines of prey, though they will eat some of the larger organs such as the heart and liver and drink the blood for hydration), then remove the limbs. After helping Lauren, head keeper, dress the deer, I decided that Tex needed the deer for breakfast. The legs were given in place of one chicken to other tigers (so instead of receiving two whole, raw chickens one tiger received one chicken and one whole leg). Any tiger on the compound that lives with another tiger is shifted during meal times to prevent fighting. This simply means the tigers are separated in different parts of the enclosures by shift gates. However, I forgot to shift tigers Lucky and Carmelita yesterday morning... they are used to being on a certain side and I thought the gate was down. Lauren and I were about to drive away leaving the two to their respective meals when we realized that in fact I had not shifted them. This could have been a major problem had one tiger finished early and decided to steal the other's meal. A fight would have broken out... probably not to the death, but separating two 400 pound cats with claws that are three inches long is not an easy as separating two young boys in a school yard.

After the shift gate mishap, we shifted tigers Jellybean and Tex with difficulty, as Jelly is a bit jealous and took a swing at Tex when he saw the deer. We pulled the deer into the enclosure (with no tigers in that part) and lifted the deer torso onto a platform. Tex came into the enclosure once we were out surveyed the place first. Tex can be aggressive at times and I expected him to charge me, but he didn't.

The deer carcas is on the platform and Tex surveys the area

Tex immediately pulled the meat off the platform and dragged it around for no apparent reason. He was either showing off to a snarling Jellybean or searching for just the right spot to eat. Like most cats, tigers can pull their own body weight with their jaws. Tex took the meat in his jaws and walked around, heaving his weight on his front legs with the torso in between. Tigers carry the majority of their weight in their forepaws. If you look at tiger you will notice that their front legs are more powerful than their back legs, which differs from cats like the bobcat, whose back legs are much larger for jumping.

Making sure the kill is... killed

Preparing to drag meat to a secure location

We never feed live game to our animals. Although the predator-prey relationship is only natural, it goes against our values as a wildlife sanctuary. The deer we receive at Carolina Tiger Rescue allows the tigers to eat a complete as well as diverse diet. Nothing goes to waste on the compound... no bones, no parts, and as some put it, it keeps us humble.