Two Bengal tigers and a Siberian share a home on the outskirts of Ste. Genevieve.
They live in the Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary, a rescue shelter for big cats that is open for tours year round. An early-bird tour at 10 a.m. promises more action from the tigers; it is the only tour requiring reservations.
The sanctuary opened to the public in 2006. Keepers John Madigan and Lynn Molden and a small staff tend the three tigers, all rescues from circuses or other commercial exhibits.
“All of our cats were rescued from situations where they were abused, neglected or unwanted,” said Kayla Strommen, a keeper and tour guide.
The facility offers 45-minute tours three times a day, Thursday to Sunday. Tours allow visitors to see Gracie, Thor and Izzy explore their enclosure, watch the animals being fed and learn about their history.
The Bengals, Gracie and Thor, both 16, are sisters. They were rescued from Exotic Animal Paradise together, where Strommen said they were underfed.
At the time, Thor, who can be identified by a heart-shaped stripe on her left hip, shared most of her food with Gracie, who is almost blind.
Gracie is also the neat freak of the bunch, Strommen said, and one of her favorite hobbies is cleaning her sister.
Izzy, 12, a Siberian, was rescued from Great Cat Adventures, a now-defunct company that used Izzy for cub petting at fairs and carnivals. In that time, he became dependent on human touch but has since learned to be significantly more social in being around Gracie and Thor.
The tigers are well-fed in their new home, Strommen said.
“Their diet is mostly beef, pork, turkey, chicken and deer,” she said. “Fortunately, most of our meat is donated.”
In addition to the tiger exhibit, Crown Ridge has a gift shop, where visitors can examine tiger bones and purchase flavored sodas named after each big cat on the property.
There is also Tiger Sanctuary Lodging, which offers 12 separate quarters to choose from for an overnight stay.
Crown Ridge also offers a multitude of events for visitors, such as “Coffee With Cats” and “Mom’s Day Social.”
“This is a really special place,” Strommen said. “We’ve been called a ‘hidden gem,’ because not a lot of people know about us.”
“We give you a real chance to see tigers and learn about them.”