After more than a decade in rural Newberg, Wildcat Haven will move to Scotts Mills

How do you move a tiger?

Besides very carefully, the trick is using food to lure the big cat into a cage that is rolled onto a truck for transport.

This is a situation that operators of Wildcat Haven, the Parrett Mountain nonprofit sanctuary for captive-born wild cats in need, face as they prepare to move to a much larger space near Silverton. by: KARINE AIGNER
 - A good move for the cats - Katie, a Bengal tiger, and the dozens of other animals at Wildcat Haven, will soon be relocated to a larger facility near Scotts Mills.

The sanctuary was founded by Cheryl and Mike Tuller after they saw an ad for a bobcat that said it was “just like a house cat, but bigger,” and they naively purchased it. As the bobcat grew, it followed its natural instincts and became aggressive and territorial, according to Jan Vales, the organization’s volunteer and development director.

“They could have euthanized it, but they wanted to learn how to take care of it,” Vales said. “They were living in Tigard and moved to Sherwood, built a big outdoor enclosure and started taking in more cats.”

Vales knows all the nearly five dozen cats at the sanctuary along with their stories and also fondly recalls the cats that have died.

“Wildcat Haven is definitely a labor of love,” she said. “I have seen miracles happen. I have seen cats come in so sick, and a couple of months later, I hardly recognize them.”

In addition to the Tullers, Wildcat Haven has a fulltime veterinarian on staff, another fulltime employee and about 15 regular volunteers.

Besides veterinary care, the cats must be fed: “We go through 3,500 pounds of meat a month,” Vales said.

“We are strictly a rescue organization,” she added. “We don’t display the animals that come to us. Most have had bad experiences with people and zoos don’t want them. It is estimated that 98 percent of exotic pets don’t make it past the age of 2.

“What’s really sad is that the laws for exotic pet ownership vary from state to state, from tight regulations to none, and will stay that way until there is some federal regulation. We won’t ever go out of business because cats come to us from all over the U.S.”

Luckily, Wildcat Haven will be able to take in more cats after its move from eight acres near Newberg to 82 acres in Scotts Mills. The property comes with a 3,000-square-foot main house and other outbuildings, so the major improvement needed is to construct enclosures for the cats.

“Big cats – lions and tigers – often need rescuing more than the smaller wildcats, and this move will allow us to take in more big cats in the future,” Vales said.

Also coming in larger numbers to the refuge are hybrid cats, in which domestic cats are mated with a captive-born serval, Asian leopards or jungle cats.

“The first generations are often more wildcat in nature than domestic cat and get surrendered to sanctuaries like ours,” Vales said. “Hybrids require separate housing because they are often smaller than wildcats, but bigger than domestics. At Wildcat Haven, we have a separate area called `Hybrid Haven’ to house the 11 hybrids that live there.”

Due to purchasing the new property and the planned expansion of the program, Wildcat Haven currently has a capital campaign going with a goal of raising $125,000.

“Right now we don’t have a firm moving date as there is still a lot of work to do on the (Scotts Mills) property,” Vales said. “The property was logged, so there is a lot of stump removal to do.”

As development director, Vales regularly mans booths at various events around the area to raise the visibility of the organization and seek donations. She also fills orders for Wildcat Haven paraphernalia ordered on eBay, which is one of the organization’s ongoing fundraisers.

Wildcat Haven is supported primarily by private donations and grants. It has earned verification and accreditation from both the Global Federation of American Sanctuaries and the American Sanctuary Association.

“I admire Cheryl so much,” Vales said. “She does so much with so little.”

For more information, visit or write Wildcat Haven, P.O. Box 1071, Sherwood 97140, or call 503-625-0812.

Fundraiser set for Sept. 15

As part of its capital campaign to raise funds for its newly acquired property in Scotts Mills, Wildcat Haven is hosting a fundraiser Oct. 5, called “The Big Cat Bash - Roaring ‘20s.” The event will be held at Oregon Golf Club near West Linn.

Early tickets, purchased before Sept. 15, are $75 per ticket or $140 for two tickets; after Sept 15, the prices are $100 per ticket or $180 for two tickets.

Scott Tom, DJ for 106.7 FM in Portland, will provide music and there also will be a buffet dinner and no-host bar plus oral and silent auctions.

Tickets can be purchased at or by mailing a check to Wildcat Haven, P.O. Box 1071, Sherwood 97140.

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