Having lived in Gainesville for almost 15 years, I thought I had seen everything our town had to offer. Much to my surprise, I’m delighted to learn of and visit new places I had no idea were located right here in our community. Several months ago friends of ours asked if we’d like to join them at their friend’s house which happened to be a wildlife rescue. Of course we jumped on the unique opportunity. Our kids learned so much and enjoyed up close and personal encounters with an African Lion, a Cheetah, a Lynx, a Puma, and a Lemur just to name a few. Not your average visit to a “friend’s house.” Immediately upon arriving at the property, we were greeted by an Emu. Not your typical host, but she was very friendly and loved walking right along with us while we were in her spacious area.
Located right here in Gainesville, on County Road 225, is Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation where you can find animals you don’t typically see, even at the Santa Fe Zoo. Carson Springs is primarily a conservation and educational facility that rescues exotic animals in need and is located on private property. The owners, Christine and Barry donate their time, land and funds to further their mission of advancing conservation through education.
Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation also has a rehabilitation license for native wildlife and house and support conservation of endangered species. Several lucky animals that would have otherwise been euthanized, call Carson Springs their home. Many are rescued, rehabilitated, and given the opportunity to live out their years on a gorgeous property with lots of open space to roam all while being given the best of care. Take Samer, the African Lion for example. He is about 7 and was brought to a vet to be euthanized. He suffers from a neurological condition and is known as a “wobbler” lion and has trouble with balance. His condition has greatly improved through nutritional therapy and a good diet. He also benefits from a large enclosure where his muscle tone has greatly improved.
Another great rescue and one of my kids favorite animals on the property is Sunflower; a Bengal Tiger. She is 3 years old and was also brought to the vet to be euthanized. According to the Carson Springs website, it was reported that she was having seizures and her original origins were obscured but clearly she was being discarded. “Her happiness and joy of life is an inspiration to all who meet her. The owners say she appears to have had some training so it’s likely she came from a traveling circus. She is a bit cross eyed, most likely the result of inbreeding. Fortunately thru good diet and a proper habitat she is thriving and has been very healthy.” I think Sunflower was my kid’s favorite animal as she was one of the most playful. As we walked up to her huge enclosure, we happen to be standing next to a large tub filled with water. Without missing a beat, Sunflower jumped in and sprayed us all with water. She proceeded to do this as long as we were standing in her designated “splash zone” and the kids just adored her. I have never heard so many giggles and squeals of delight!
Throughout the property we were able to watch the lions and tigers devour huge portions of raw chicken thrown in their enclosures by the owner. Barry told us all of the chicken had been generously donated by Tyson Foods, if I remember correctly. Even watching these animals eat was an experience full of fun; I could hear one of them purring!
Another amazing rescue they have is two Cougars, Jay and Mocha. My kids just adored these animals as they ran side by side with my kids along their enclosure. My kids would run in one direction and they would glide right along next to them. As my kids would turn and run back in the other direction, the Cougars would follow and this continued on for at least 15 minutes. I had two tuckered out little kids when all was said and done.
Carson Springs provides educational opportunities and activities for a wide variety of people including school groups, college and vet students, 4H groups, and continuing education for veterinarians. Private educational tours are available by appointment. If you’re interested in taking a tour and meeting all of these wonderful animals, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please remember, at Carson Springs there are no paid administration salaries and the animals are totally dependent on donations. All donations go directly to animal care and education & conservation of wild endangered species and there is no State or Federal funding. If you tour Carson Springs and loved the experience, please consider making even a small donation. Every little bit helps.