Kiska, a Rome resident, is the main volunteer at the wild animal preserve where the day begins at dawn. There are about 50 animals who look forward to seeing Kiska each morning. But while the preserve is home to tigers, lions, wolves, bears and other exotic creatures, Kiska cares for the ones who are a little more common, but no less special.
“I look after all the barnyard animals,” she said. “In all there are about 50 of them. There are goats, pot-bellied pigs, even peacocks.”
Kiska must feed and water all the animals and clean their stalls. Some of the animals under her care are a little more exotic than others. A pair of peacocks perch on top of the barn, resplendent in their colorful plumage while best friends Tootles and Zach share a large enclosure. Tootles is a camel and Zach is a zebra. They were raised together and are inseperable. Kiska said she loves all the animals but believes Tootles needs special attention every now and again.
“This is good exercise for me,” she said while pushing a wheelbarrow full of straw to one of the enclosures. “It puts a smile on my face every time I do this. The animals appreciate that I’m here and I love this work.”
But while Kiska is queen of the barnyard, there are others who share this kingdom as well. New additions to the preserve include a great horned owl and a handsome red hawk.
Susan Steffens, founder and executive director at Untamed Mountain (home of Tigers for Tomorrow), said the organization has transformed from simply a big cat sanctuary to a full-scale predator and wild animal preserve.
The two raptors (the hawk and owl) are part of a vital arm of the organization — education. They are just two of the animals at Untamed Mountain who frequently leave the sanctuary to do community outreach.
“We take many of our small mammals and our birds of prey into the community to do outreach,” Steffens said. “We go to schools, clubs and even assisted living facilities to show people the animals, teach them about what we do here at Untamed Mountain and hopefully give them an experience with these animals that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”
Part of that outreach was the construction of the Legacy Living Classroom at Untamed Mountain. It serves as a welcome center and teaching tool. It is the gateway to the preserve and is filled with creatures of its own, from Alexis the American Alligator to Chuckle the rat, Moose the ferret and Pockets, a beautiful green-winged macaw.
“Our visitors love being able to see and touch these animals,” Steffens said. “It’s one thing to hear about these creatures but for a child or any visitor be able to hold and feel a chinchilla’s soft fur or to see exactly how intelligent ferrets are, it stays with them and they have a better understanding of why it’s important to protect all these animals.”
An exciting new addition to the preserve has come in the form of three rambunctious Bengal tiger cubs. Ayla, Aurora and Ravi are ambassadors for the plight of tigers around the world. At 18 weeks old, Ayla displays the traditional colors of orange and black, but Aurora is stunning in her coat of white. Ravi, however, is rarest of all. She is a golden tabby tiger. Like the white tiger, the golden tabby is a color variation and not a separate species. There are currently believed to be fewer than 30 of these rare tigers in the world.
Steffens takes the cubs on outreach trips and they cause quite a stir wherever they go. The preserve needs funding to build them a comfortable enclosure, however. The cubs can be sponsored by individuals and businesses by visiting Untamed Mountain’s website tigersfortomorrow.org.
Another big cat that needs the public’s help is Kazuma, a four-year-old lion who until recently has lived in unacceptable conditions in a zoo in Guatemala. Steffens has secured permission to bring Kazuma to Untamed Mountain where he will live in safety and comfort. But the organization needs donors to offset the cost of transportation, veterinary services and housing.
To learn more about or to help Kazuma or any of the animals at Untamed Mountain, visit online at tigersfortomorrow.org or call 256-524-4150.
Untamed Mountain, home of Tigers for Tomorrow, is open year round, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the public to walk about. No reservations are required.
Admission is $12 plus tax for adults ages 12 and over, and $6 plus tax for children ages 3 to 11. Senior adults 65 and over pay $8 plus tax.
Private tours are available by appointment.
Group tours, private tours and field trips are available Tuesday through Sunday by reservation only.
Untamed Mountain is located at 708 County Road 345, Attalla, Ala. GPS coordinates are Latitude: 34.221844, Longitude: 85.96269.
Click here to read a previous article about Tigers for Tomorrow.