Denali's life began as a privately-owned pet and later rescued from an unaccredited sanctuary. He was originally purchased by a man who claimed to have acquired a litter of Serval kittens from a roadside zoo. As Denali rapidly grew, reaching double the size of a domestic cat, his family soon realized that they could no longer manage him in their home. Consequently, they made the decision to place him at the Spirit of the Hills Sanctuary in South Dakota when he turned one year old.
In October 2016, Denali found himself at the center of a massive rescue and relocation effort. The sanctuary where he was residing was struggling to provide adequate care for its 160+ animals, and after a tragic tiger mauling incident following a failed USDA inspection, the sanctuary was ultimately shut down. Lions Tigers & Bears played a pivotal role in working alongside local authorities and the sanctuary director to secure new homes for all the facility's exotic animals, including bears, wolves, tigers, lions, and other big cats. The extensive efforts of the Lions Tigers & Bears Rescue Team spanned over 8,000 miles, relocating these animals across the United States.
Denali's story unfortunately mirrors the common challenges associated with private exotic animal ownership, serving as a poignant example of why private ownership of exotics often proves detrimental for both the owners and the animals. While the fortunate ones find their way to reputable sanctuaries, the scarcity of true sanctuaries means that many of these animals face the grim possibility of being sold to breeders, roadside zoos, or even worse, ending up in canned hunting ranches or facing euthanasia.
Denali's journey took a brighter turn when he was rescued alongside his "best friend," Sadie, a Bengal-hybrid mix, who continues to share his habitat. Denali is an energetic and sociable cat who seems to genuinely enjoy people.