Big Cats of Serenity Springs
Colorado cats' future uncertain after owner's death
Future Uncertain For Big Cats Of Serenity Springs Sanctuary In El Paso County
by Scott Harrison
KRDO-TV.com, Colorado Springs
Just last month, we updated you on the exotic cat sanctuary in El Paso County. Now, the owner has died. Pneumonia claimed the life of 47-year-old Karen Sculac just before noon Saturday.
Sanctuary volunteer Collette Colvin says, "The lions sing at night, and I didn't hear them singing as much last night. I don't know if we have what she had, to keep it going."
Sculac's death came unexpectedly, after a case of strep throat developed into pneumonia. "She thought it was just a summer flu, and continued to work out here--and they're not people to go to the doctors, so she figured she'd get better."
Collette says Karen kept caring for her 112 big cats, right up until Friday--when she couldn't walk.
Now there are big shoes to fill, and big bills to pay. "It's close to $20,000 a month, assuming nothing goes wrong--and Karen dying is the biggest wrong i can think of."
Karens loss is felt not just by daughter Amber and other loved ones... but by her three favorite cats.
"Zazu and Reno. Those were her boys. She raised them from cubs, and they're huge male lions. They will miss her. She was with them every day. There's a lioness by the name of Savannah. Karen would just sit with her for hours, and the two of them would just sit there and talk to each other."
Now, volunteers say their only option is to try and continue the sanctuary--because there's nowhere else the cats can go. "I can be realistic and say it's going to be hard, and we will have trouble doing it."
The sanctuary always needs donations to pay for operating costs. But now, Karen's family needs money as well--because she had no insurance. If you'd like to donate, contact Big Cats of Serenity Springs at 347-9200. Tours are cancelled until further notice.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Serenity Springs Owner Foreclosed and Heart Attack
By Deborah Frazier, Rocky Mountain News
June 26, 2006
Nick and Karen Sculac, owners of Big Cats of Serenity Springs, have another sad animal sanctuary story.
But they're counting on a happy ending.
Big Cats of Serenity Springs, located in Calhan about 65 miles southeast of Denver, is home to 105 lions, tigers, leopards and other large felines.
The Sculacs started the refuge 14 years ago, taking in cats from failed sanctuaries and from private owners - including fighter Mike Tyson - who had lost interest in their toothsome exotic pets.
"They don't come with dowries, not even Tyson's," said Karen Sculac. "Other refuges don't take cats without dollars, but I can't put a price on their heads."
That was fine until last year, when Nick Sculac had a massive heart attack and mothballed his contracting business that kept fresh meat in the large cats' bellies.
This year, the bank foreclosed on the Sculac's 8,000-square-foot home. The couple moved into a small house on the sanctuary's already-paid-for 15 acres.
"We're not going to a homeless shelter, and neither are the cats," Karen Sculac said.
Nick Sculac, 54, known in southeastern Colorado as "The Tiger Man" for his cheery pickups of fresh livestock carcasses for his brood, has six stents in his arteries and a slew of medicines.
He's hoping for a full recovery by next year and has paid all his medical bills with cash. But he grieves that he's got to stay away from his furry wards.
"If they bite me, I'll bleed to death because of the blood thinners," said Sculac, who once romped with lions and tigers that embraced him with paws the size of baseball gloves.
Each week, the cats devour 1,683 pounds of meat, and the Sculacs' savings account is as dented as the metal barrels the lions toss around their enclosures.
A vendor who trades in meat that's past the deadline for human consumption and Red Bird Farms in Denver help, but sometimes those supplies run short.
Karen Sculac said she then buys chicken quarters by the case at the local discount store.
The Sculacs said their refuge, one of only two licensed big cat sanctuaries in the state, isn't closing.
But if Big Cats of Serenity Springs did close, state officials wouldn't be surprised.
"It's tragic, but it's a tough world and sometimes the animals are better off being euthanized," said Rick Enstrom, a Colorado Wildlife Commissioner.
In 2003, the commission banned new nonprofit exotic animal refuges to prevent Colorado from becoming the dumping ground as other states banned refuges.
But that didn't stop the Sculacs or Pat Craig's Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center near Greeley from taking in more animals every year.
The Conservation Center, which houses 152 lions, tigers, bears, wolves and other wildlife, ran $150,000 short last year.
Craig launched a media campaign for donations.
It worked, as it had before, said Enstrom. He said the Sculacs haven't resorted to emotional pleas to raise money - but they could.
"When something does happen to the Sculacs or Craig, we will have an emotional and financial train wreck," said Enstrom. "The refuge owners can't do it all their lives. And, they run out of money."
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Press Release from Big Cats of Serenity Springs
Big Cats of Serenity Springs Not Closing
Misinformation leaked to local press leads to false rumors that Big Cats of Serenity Springs has been closed. The sanctuary releases statement correcting misinformation and assures public that the sanctuary remains open.
Calhan, CO, USA (PRWEB) June 22, 2006 -- In the face of a personal financial crisis, Big Cats of Serenity Springs has found it necessary to publicly state that the organization responsible for the protection and care of over 105 exotic captive felines is not in danger of closing.
Without permission, and against the code of ethics that Big Cats of Serenity Springs operates under, an individual not associated with the facility leaked false information to local media outlets. This person had access to private, personal financial data and released this information to the press, along with their erroneous belief that the sanctuary was being closed.
Karen Sculac, director of the sanctuary, has spent the last 4 days correcting threatening suppositions and assuring callers that her personal finances are totally separate from the finances of the organization that she and her husband started. “Like any responsible business owner, we made a conscious decision 13 years ago to keep our personal finances personal so that any misfortunes that may befall us would not affect the cats that depend on us.”
Due to a drop in donations since September 2000, and an even more dramatic loss of funds since the natural disasters in 2005, the Sculacs have been putting the majority of their personal incomes into ensuring the wellbeing of the residents of the feline refuge. Karen was well aware that this decision could mean the eventual sacrifice of the home she and Nick had built on property adjoining the facility. “I can live without my dream house; the cats can’t live without me,” Karen said in a statement on Monday.
Adding to already stressful, personal situations is the fact that misinformation was leaked to local media outlets stating that the sanctuary was closing and cats were being evicted from their home. Assumptions that Big Cats of Serenity Springs had closed is already having a negative impact on donations, making it necessary for a public statement to be released regarding a personal financial situation that should have remained private.
Big Cats of Serenity Springs has not been, nor will it be, affected by any personal adversity faced by those involved with the organization. We remain open and invite the public to visit us through our Tour Program and 100% of all donations received will continue to be used to provide for the exotic captive animals in our care.
Big Cats of Serenity Springs is a non profit organization dedicated to providing a safe, stable, permanent home for non-domestic felines, regardless of prior history or physical condition in accordance with their code of ethics.
Big Cats of Serenity Springs, 719-347-9200
Karen Sculac, director
Collette Colvin, public relations