It was 1991 when Mike and Debbie Wyche founded CAT TALES**. Mike, a graphic designer, and Debbie a zookeeper / wildlife photographer envisioned a wildlife rescue center after adopting a cougar cub. Licensing with the USDA APHIS and registering with the IRS as a nonprofit 501(c)3 incorporated charity began the paperwork and inspection process that continues today.
The first summer was humble. With four cats and the tours started and ended in the house. Our gift shop was half of the living room with photos on the walls. Visitors parked in what was the front yard and came through the front door to sign in. Tours started out the front door, included the four cats, and came in the back door where the guest surveys were on the kitchen counter. We started incorporating a volunteer staff, some of whom are still very much involved. With the help of our previous Senior Staff and Big Cat experience, we began training in the basic day to day care of big cats and how to give good informative tours to our visitors.
As word of our facility traveled throughout the U.S., we began to rescue more and more cats (and other non feline animals) from the private sector. Some of them came to be part of the Park’s family, some were placed in other centers. We ended the summer of 1992 with two tigers, five pumas, a serval, two bobcats and two lynx. By Spring 1993 we had three leopards, a clouded leopard, three tigers, four pumas, a serval, two lions, two bobcats, two lynx, two kinkajous, an agouti, and three prairie dogs. (We soon placed the non felines in other homes.)
Our attendance slowly increased and so did our staff. During the 1998-99 school year the Park’s Outreach Programs and On site Tours hosted thousands of students K-Adult. The staff averages 20+ members who are either students, instructors, or volunteers. By spring 2005, we were feeding an average of 14,000 pounds of food per month to 42 Big Cats, 2 Bears, Parrots, Reptiles and an entire petting zoo of rescued domestic animals.
Fast Forward to 2016….
During a visit to Cat Tales Zoological Park today (2016) you will likely see any of our 36 big cats consisting of Lion, Tigers, Leopards, Pumas, Bobcats, and two black bears. We still have many assorted non-feline creatures living at Cat Tales as well. Some of these animals are not on exhibit to the general public but provide additional experience for the students enrolled in the zoo school. Most of the non-felid animals arrived as “orphans” and were taken in as part of the zoo’s rescue program. We continue to educate and train some of the most talented and professional zoological staff who find successful jobs throughout the international zoological community.
Bringing us up to date in 2019…. We are celebrating almost 30 years of dedicated animal care. Our animals have a flow of new and old. With today’s technology, including social media, we have restructured our message to slowly decrease the “zoo” labeling and reinforce who we have always been…. a nonprofit Big Cat Sanctuary and Wildlife Rescue. Over the years many of our animals have lived to a “ripe old age” and have moved along. Our collection of family members changes with the seasons. It is hard to put in print just exactly what you will see when you visit, but you are guaranteed to see lots of big cats, a few bears, canines, and other animals. Our Zookeeper Training program is in full swing and the employment opportunities are abundant for our graduates.
And then there was a pandemic………
“2019-20 were unprecedented years for Cat Tales. My husband and best friend of over 30 years passed away in August 2019 after a long illness.
Mike and I founded Cat Tales in October 1990 and in the years that followed provided forever homes for over 100 rescued big cats and priceless wildlife education for our community. This mission continues today but has required some adjustment. I am forever grateful to our daughter Lisa and her family for keeping the legacy alive and moving forward.” – Debbie Wyche
CAT TALES is an acronym for “Care About Them, Tell About the Lord’s Endangered Species”. The Founders believe that we have a planet to care for, a responsibility to the species, and the voice for them as they also call earth home.
We are reaching out to the international community through social media to spread knowledge of our mission and opportunities. Please share, follow, like ……. #SupportedByYou