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Giant claws, teeth don't keep away trespassers

By: MARIA ST.LOUIS-SANCHEZ
February 1, 2012
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photo - Newer fencing covers a mend in the fence of this tiger enclosure Wednesday at Serenity Springs Wildlife Center, where someone broke into the wildlife center and cut a hole in one of the fences. Photo by JERILEE BENNETT/The Gazette
Newer fencing covers a mend in the fence of this tiger enclosure Wednesday at Serenity Springs Wildlife Center, where someone broke into the wildlife center and cut a hole in one of the fences. Photo by JERILEE BENNETT/The Gazette 

Two recent break-ins at a refuge for wild cats in Calhan have left the owner wondering about the sanity of the trespassers and worried about his liability.

“I don’t know if they were high or what,” said Nick Sculac, owner of Serenity Springs Wildlife Center, a refuge center for more than 120 big cats. “But I’m worried. If these guys had gotten eaten, I would have been the one to be in trouble.”

He said the first break-in happened at the end of January when someone scaled the 10-foot, barbed wire-lined fence at the compound and cut a hole in a cage big enough for the three tigers inside to come out into the compound.

“Luckily they were the three tigers we raised and they were nice,” Sculac said. “We have some other cats that, if they had broken open those cages, that person would have been torn to shreds. He would have been eaten in a heartbeat.”

He said workers had patrolled the compound at 3 a.m. the night before. When they returned in the morning, the tigers were wandering through the compound.

A couple of days later,  on Jan. 25, the center got attention on the show “Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy.”  On the show, Larry watched a cat being neutered, walked a trained tiger on a chain and tried to approach the cage for cats housed at the back of the complex that are too dangerous for the public viewing areas. A tiger growled and jumped at the fence.

“It scared the hell out of him,” Sculac laughed.  “I’ve never seen Larry jump so fast in my life.”

After seeing Larry walk a trained tiger, some people must have figured that the wild cats are all nice, Sculac said. When workers showed up at the center a day after the show aired, a man and a woman were sticking their hands into the cougar cage to pet the animal.

The trespassers briefly argued with workers before they jumped back over the 10-foot fence and drove off. Sculac said the license plate of the vehicle was bent so he wasn’t able to read it.

He’s hired a security guard and is shopping for a security system.

“I never bought one before because I didn’t think I needed it,” he said. “I didn’t think anyone would be stupid enough to try to come in here.”


Contact Maria St. Louis-Sanchez: 636-0274
Twitter @mariastlouis
 Facebook Gazette Maria St. Louis-Sanchez

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