June 23, 2015


I first read about Lions Tigers and Bears on Marla's blog back in January. I had already decided I wanted to make a donation to a good cause for my birthday when my husband read my mind and surprised me with a membership to this organisation. It was the first time for as far as I can remember that I didn't get a traditional presents 'for myself' and it felt great. 

A photo posted by Nathalie (@snowflakesincalifornia) on

There are different types of memberships depending on how much you decide to donate but all of them include unlimited visits for yourself and in my case one guest. There is also an option to become a member for a day - if you don't live in the area for example - or you can even buy a pass that gives you to opportunity to feed one of the animals. 

All visits do need to be scheduled in advance and we eventually decided to book ours at the end of May. As you can see we didn't get the best weather in Alpine: it was incredibly foggy and rainy in the mountains that morning. In fact, driving up from the coast felt like we had stepped into a different world. I was so glad I had at least thought of bringing a sweater with me and luckily, we also found a rain jacket in the back of the car or it could have been a disaster. Some of the other visitors clearly weren't expecting this either! On the other hand the background was definitely appropriate for what we were about to see and hear.

Black bears // Grizzly bears Albert and Cherry Bomb

Most of the animals at Lions Tigers & Bears have very sad background stories and were either purchased as a pet or for entertainment. Both of which are disturbing. I can't wrap my head around the fact that some people think it's a good idea to buy a a bear or a tiger (for a toddler!!) and then don't know what to do when - surprise, surprise - it gets too big, dangerous or expensive to keep (mainly all of the above).

Our tour started with a visit to the bear enclosures where we saw multiple black bears and two grizzly bears who have found a new home here. The two grizzly bears couldn't walk normally - it looks like they're either limping or dragging their feet - because they'd spent so much time confined in small quarters. They were malnourished and a lot smaller than they should be when they arrived but apparently have come a long way since then - we were told they could barely walk at all in the beginning!  

I was really excited to see the tigers, because they've always been my favourite type of big cat. And this is about the closest I've ever been to one. It was so incredible and sad at the same time because these majestic animals just don't belong in a cage. Natasha for example (picture) spent many years in a small enclosure without being able to roam around before she arrived at Lions Tigers and Bears.

It might look like the animals live in small areas but a lot of that has to do with the fact that every enclosure has double fencing for security reasons. The tigers for example have walkways in the back (that you can't see in the pictures) and all the big cats rotate between their separate enclosure and spending time in the 'Tiger Trails'-enclosure: a big open area with a large pool and green grass. 

The lions: 'king' Bakari and his two sisters Jilian and Suri

One of the most beautiful cats we saw that day was definitely Conga, the leopard. There are also a few bobcats and a serval but those pictures unfortunately didn't turn out that great. 

The guided tour lasted about an hour and a half and I had trouble containing my tears sometimes. After the tour you'r free to walk around and explore but because of the cold weather we didn't stay that long. So I'll just have to go back some other time! 

Have you ever visited an animal rescue? 

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