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Black Pine is perfect retiree home for 4 tigers

As four tigers settle into their new home at Black Pine Animal Sanctuary in Albion, keepers there bid farewell to two longtime residents.

Choker, an 18-year-old, 9-foot boa constrictor, was put down this week after suffering from an internal infection for the past several months, Executive Director Lori Gagen said. Exams indicated that Choker’s treatment was unsuccessful, and due to his age, Choker was unable to fight the infection.

A wolf named Nanook was also put down this week. He was suffering from inoperable cancer, Gagen said.

But tigers Sammie, Delilah, Taz and Ticha are just starting to enjoy retirement at Black Pine, said Kati Speer, assistant sanctuary manager.

The four large cats arrived in mid-October from the Tiger Paw Exotic Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Ashland, Ohio, after their previous owners could no longer afford to care for the tigers.

Black Pine is still raising money to build permanent housing for the tigers.

Three of the tigers were rescued from a roadside zoo that was auctioning off the animals after they became too old to use in photographs with children. The other was attacked by a dog at a young age in the home of its former owner before being taken in by the Ohio center.

Speer said all four tigers are adjusting well and are often excited to see their keepers. Sammie, the oldest of the four, is recovering from injuries that required treatment upon his arrival.

Gagen said she couldn’t say for sure what had caused Sammie’s systemic infection or other injuries but that he has greatly improved during his time at Black Pine.

Speer said Sammie is also the most talkative in the group and has “a great big personality.” Tigers sometimes make a unique sound, especially when their keepers are around.

Taz and Ticha are playful, she said.

When the tigers arrived, the sanctuary began fundraising to build permanent homes.

The sanctuary is about $7,000 short of its $50,000 goal, Gagen said. The next $7,000 will be matched by a family who offered to match up to $25,000 raised.

The money raised and the weather will determine when the tigers can move from their holding areas to permanent homes, Gagen said.

She encourages anyone interested in visiting to set up a private tour during the sanctuary’s offseason by calling 636-7383.

If you go

What: Animal Enrichment Day
Where: Black Pine Animal Sanctuary, 1426 W. Main St. in Albion
When: 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 29
Cost: $7 for ages 3-9 and $8 for ages 10 and older
Visitors can watch the animals open their Christmas presents. Proceeds help cover the extra costs of winter care.
•For more information or to make a donation, go to the sanctuary’s website at and click the “How to help” tab.

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