When you picture the large variety of animals roaming around North Alabama, lions, tigers and grizzly bears are probably not among your imaginary menagerie. In Attalla, Alabama, however, the roar of a lion and the scream of a cougar are not uncommon sounds thanks to Tigers for Tomorrow, an exotic animal preserve that cares for animals rescued from private owners, circuses and canned hunts.
I can’t believe that I lived in Huntsville for five years before visiting the rescue preserve, a mere two-hour drive away and an easy day trip.
More Than Just Tigers
Tigers for Tomorrow doesn’t just care for tigers.
At the park, you’ll find:
- Miniature horses
While we were waiting for the tour to begin, volunteers brought out two boa constrictors for closer inspection.
During our visit, Wilbur McCauley, Director Of Animal Care and Operations, led approximately 20 visitors of all ages around the preserve, sharing information on the instincts, habits, feeding requirements and natural habitats (or, usually, the shrinking natural habitats) of several animals.
Walk with the Animals
McCauley explained that each animal has a unique personality, and no resident illustrated this point better than Yonah, a grizzly bear that arrived at the rescue when he was 6 months old. Yonah was used for promotions in North Carolina until he grew too big — he’ll eventually weigh up to 800 pounds. Because he was raised alone as a pet, Yonah can’t socialize with other grizzlies.
When Yonah realized that McCauley wasn’t going to visit him in his enclosure, the young bear started making a growling/purring noise that was easily mistaken for a two-stroke engine — I actually started looking around for a lawn mower. McCauley identified the sound as a self-comforting behavior that Yonah hasn’t grown out of yet.
Sad Beginnings, Happy Endings
Keep in mind that Tigers for Tomorrow is a rescue preserve, not a zoo. If you take an educational tour, you’ll learn about the histories of several of the rescued animals. These are not happy bedtime stories, but they do have happy endings.
My goal is to project the truth and not mislead in protecting the animals so they do not disappear. As guardians of the animals we must first understand them for who they are and what they are not. Each animal is an individual with intellect and emotions driven by instincts which can never be removed.
After my visit, a friend asked me if Tigers for Tomorrow was a sad place. I replied that it’s sad that a place like this is necessary, but the preserve itself isn’t sad at all. The animals live in large enclosures, enjoy an appropriate diet and have loving caretakers.
There’s no evidence that the animals are uncomfortable or unhappy; one of the wolves circled the perimeter of its enclosure almost obsessively while our tour group was nearby, but McCauley assured me that this behavior was only a temporary reaction to encountering such a large crowd of people.
Tigers for Tomorrow is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a board of directors that approves the rescue’s adoption decisions. This preserve is not in danger of becoming a “hoarding” or “collecting” rescue; the group only adopts a new animal after funds have been raised for the transport, housing and future care of that animal.
One of the factors that prompted me to visit during a recent spring break tour promotion was the assurance that I would be able to take photographs. McCauley explained that visitors on unguided “walkabout” tours of the reserve are no longer allowed to take photographs because people were tossing things at fences to get the animals’ attention for better pictures. Only visitors on guided tours can bring cameras into the preserve.
Tigers for Tomorrow has a variety of tours available including:
- Group tours: 20+ people $15 per adult, $10 per child under 12. Must schedule in advance. Available Tuesday through Sunday.
- Private tours: $25 per person
- School field trips: 20+ people $15 per adult, $10 per child under 12
- Walkabout tours: (self- guided) $12 for adults and $6 for children 3 to 11. Available 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
Head to the Tigers for Tomorrow website for the most up-to-date information on hours, tours and prices.
About the Author
Suzanne Crow Haggerty is a recovering newspaper copy editor turned technical writer, an utter geek and a reckless culinary adventurer with a bad case of the elsewheres. At Entirely Adequate, she blogs about food, fitness and the perils and joys of home ownership. You’ll also find posts on cats, family and travel (and, often, travel that centers around food).