Denali was rescued from Spirit of the Hills Sanctuary in South Dakota in October 2016. Lions Tigers & Bears was part of a massive rescue and relocation effort for the sanctuary that began in the fall of 2016. The sanctuary was struggling to care for their 160+ animals, and after a tiger mauling occurred at the facility following a failed USDA inspection, the sanctuary was shut down. Lions Tigers & Bears worked together with local authorities and the sanctuary director to secure new homes for all of the facility's exotics, which included bears, wolves, tigers, lions, and other big cats. The Lions Tigers & Bears Rescue Team traveled more than 8,000 miles to relocate animals all across the United States.
Prior to arriving at Spirit of the Hills, Denali was purchased by a military service member from a man who claimed to have purchased a litter of four or five kittens from a zoo. Denali quickly grew to be double the size of a domestic cat and, when he was one year old, his family realized they could no longer keep him in their home.
Denali's story is unfortunately a common one when it comes to private exotic animal ownership and is a perfect example of why private ownership of exotics does not work out for either the owners or the animals. When a private owner can no longer care for their exotic animal, it is up to a sanctuary to come in and rescue the animal and provide it with care for the remainder of the animal's life. But the reality of the exotic animal trade is that there are more animals that need homes than there are sanctuaries that can care for them. Many of these animals face being sold to breeders, roadside zoos, or the more grim reality of canned hunting ranches or euthanasia. The "lucky" ones often endure an immense amount of stress from being removed from their homes and having to adjust to each new place they are moved to before they are permanently placed with a reputable sanctuary.
But Denali's story has a happy ending. He now has a lifetime home here at Lions Tigers & Bears.