In difficult year, Sharon sanctuary's animals in need
SHARON By this time of year, the big refrigerated trailer at the Valley of the Kings Sanctuary & Retreat typically is filled with roadkill deer.
It's not a pleasant image, but it's an important one.
Valley of the Kings is home to 39 big cats and 150 other animals that have been abused, abandoned, retired or injured. They all need feeding, and most of them need meat.
In a news release dated Sept. 12, sanctuary co-owner Jill Carnegie said the sanctuary is in "dire straits."
This year's drought seems to have taken its toll on deer. Carnegie can't explain the lack of roadkill deer in any other way.
Deer go where the best food sources are, and this summer, southern Wisconsin went from a green and lush buffet to a brown wasteland.
The drought will affect the sanctuary in other ways as well. The hoofed animals at the sanctuary eat primarily hay and grain. Because both crops fared poorly throughout the Midwest, experts predict costs could reach record highs.
That translates to higher costs for the sanctuary.
The need for money—and deer—is greater than it has ever been in the shelter's 38 years.
On Friday, the rain kept many of the big cats inside their shelters.
When workers came around with dinner, however, the animals came stalking out. Saucer-sized paws flipped over deer haunches. After olfactory explorations, the powerful jaws and teeth went to work.
Two lions can devour a 160-pound deer in two days.
Carnegie described the tigers as "bottomless pits" when it comes to food.
Feeding the big cats store-bought food could cost as much as $1,200 a day.
Most of the animals at the sanctuary are there because of human folly, vanity or just plain meanness.
Charlie, a sleek and dangerous-looking black panther, had all his teeth and claws removed by a previous owner. Now, Charlie's tongue works constantly in and out of his mouth, and he can only be fed ground food.
There are tigers that were kept as pets. Two lions were formerly part of a tourist attraction. Have your picture taken with the cubs? Of course, but when the cubs became too big to be useful or convenient, they had to go elsewhere.
Several big cats were crippled by malnutrition or by living in enclosures that were too small.
Then there are the bears, civets, wolves, cougars, bobcats, leopards, rare breed cows and foxes that have all found their ways to the sanctuary and need care, shelter, food and entertainment to keep them mentally healthy.
Carnegie knows all of their stories, and she worries about what will happen to them without help.
A few of the animals have sponsors who pay monthly fees to care for the animals.
In an effort to contain costs, the sanctuary is no longer taking hoofed animals such as horses. This summer, she also found homes for 50 horses.