What is a sanctuary?

The federal definition of a “sanctuary” as it applies to lions, tigers, leopards, snow leopards, clouded leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, cougars, and any hybrids of those species was established by the Captive Wildlife Safety Act in 2003. The qualifications for a “sanctuary” under these guidelines are:

  • Must be a non-profit entity that is tax exempt under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code
  • Cannot engage in commercial trade in big cat species, including their offspring, parts, and products made from them
  • Cannot breed big cats
  • Cannot allow direct contact between big cats and the public at their facilities
  • Must keep records of transactions involving covered cats
  • Must allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to inspect their facilities, records, and animals at reasonable hours

There are numerous facilities that advertise as a sanctuary, even though there is a broad variation in the quality of their animal care and they do not meet the federal definition. We encourage the public to learn about any animal facility they are planning to visit before they unintentionally support practices with which they do not agree.

How do you acquire your animals?

We still have a few small cats that were part of our original captive breeding program, which we ended in 2002. Our cats and a few other species come primarily from the wild pet trade. They come from private owners, mom and pop zoos, traveling circuses, and other facilities as a result of being abandoned, relinquished, or confiscated by the authorities. Visit our Rescue page to find out why wild cats need rescue.

What makes you different from a zoo?

Carolina Tiger Rescue is a refuge, providing animals a safe, comfortable home for the remainder of their lives. Zoos generally do not acquire animals from the public. Visitors to Carolina Tiger Rescue are always escorted by trained staff or volunteers.

How did Carolina Tiger Rescue get started?

Carolina Tiger Rescue began as the Carnivore Evolutionary Research Institute in the 1970s, an organization founded by UNC geneticist Dr. Michael Bleyman to ensure the survival of specific keystone species from threatened/endangered ecosystems. He started a breeding program for caracals, servals, ocelots, and binturongs. He began rescuing big cats when the need for a sanctuary became apparent.

Carnivore Preservation, Inc. dba Carnivore Preservation Trust (CPT) was incorporated in 1981 and we began rescuing wild cats as well as breeding keystone species. We ceased direct contact with the animals in 2000 and our breeding program in 2002. Our focus became rescue and conservation education. In 2009, we changed our name to Carolina Tiger Rescue, reflecting our current mission and focus.

If your animals are endangered species, why did Carolina Tiger Rescue stop its breeding program?

When Carolina Tiger Rescue began, conservation was not widely discussed or practiced. Over the years, Species Survival Plans (SSP) and Population Management Plans (PMP) were developed for threatened and endangered species by the environmental community to ensure genetic diversity in the captive population. Meanwhile, we were receiving requests to rescue various wild cats. We decided to donate the majority of our breeding animals to other larger, better funded institutions actively engaged in the SSP and PMP program. Instead, we chose to devote our resources to rescue and conservation education.

What do your animals eat?

Carolina Tiger Rescue’s animals are on a whole carcass diet supplemented with vitamins. Small cats are fed chicken quarters, rats, or mice. Big cats eat anywhere from ten to fifteen whole chickens a week, supplemented by donated deer and other large animals. The coatimundi and kinkajous eat a mixture of fruit supplemented with a source of protein (mice, worms, or dog food). Our food budget is $80,000 annually, of which about 40% is donated in-kind.

If your animals are carnivores, why do you have fruit eaters?

The word “carnivore” has two meanings. The first refers to the diet of an animal. A carnivorous animal eats meat. The second meaning refers to members of the order Carnivora. Members of this order all possess a specific set of teeth called the carnassial pair. These teeth originally evolved as sharp and pointy to shear meat and tendons. Some members of the order Carnivora have further evolved these teeth for specialized diets, including the binturong and the kinkajou – Carolina Tiger Rescue’s fruit-eaters. Carolina Tiger Rescue’s animals are members of the order Carnivora.

Why don't you have some wildcat species?

Carolina Tiger Rescue is foremost a rescue facility and as such accepts wildcats that need a home. In its history, the facility has had lions, cougars, leopards, margays, and more. However, tigers are by far the most common big cat in the pet trade and are most likely to need a home. To ensure a comfortable life, some species require resources that Carolina Tiger Rescue currently does not have, such as a cold-climate facility for lynx or snow leopards. Carolina Tiger Rescue would be willing to accept these species if funds are raised to add the infrastructure that those animals would need.

If I know of a wildcat that needs a home, what should I do?

If you know of a wildcat that needs a home, please contact our Assistant Director at (919) 542-4684 ext. 3001.

There is a cougar/bobcat where I live, what should I do?

Carolina Tiger Rescue believes that the ideal home for wildlife is in their natural habitat, and cougars and bobcats are both native to North Carolina. Please review the “Living with Wildlife” guidelines put out by the Felidae Conservation Fund.

How many animals do you have?

Approximately 49 animals of 10 different species: tigers, lions, leopards, cougars, caracals, servals, ocelots, bobcats, coatimundi, and kinkajous.

How many people work at Carolina Tiger Rescue?

Carolina Tiger Rescue currently employs 15 full-time and 6 part-time staff. However, Carolina Tiger Rescue has nearly 200 active volunteers that are essential to its operation, animal care, tours, construction, office support, gift shop, event planning, and other areas.

Do you accept donated deer or other animals?

Yes. Carolina Tiger Rescue does accept donated animals under certain conditions. Hunters may donate deer as long as they do so within 24 hours and the meat has not spoiled. There must be a sufficient amount of meat remaining, not just bones and unusable remains. Roadkill deer are only accepted if the person donating the deer witnessed the deer getting hit or hit the deer themselves, and must be within 24 hours while the carcass is fresh.

Other animals may be donated such as goats, sheep, cows, horses, etc. Animals must be euthanized or have died without the use of chemicals/drugs.

Carolina Tiger Rescue may assist with dispatch of herd animals in certain cases. Carolina Tiger Rescue cannot guarantee that someone will be available for dispatch at a particular time, so you must call ahead to make such arrangements.

Carolina Tiger Rescue cannot guarantee that someone will be available to pick up an animal, so, if at all possible, we ask you to arrange to transport the animal to us.

If you have any questions about what animals may be donated and at what time, whether we can dispatch one, whether we can pick one up, etc., please call 919-542-4684.

Where does Carolina Tiger get it's funding?

Carolina Tiger Rescue receives no government funding, is not a United Way member agency, and receives very little grant funding. The approximate breakdown of revenue is: individual giving (memberships, adoptions, workplace giving, stocks, and donations) – 37%; tours and presentations – 29%; in-kind donations – 9.5%; special events – 8%; donor-advised funds & grants – 8%; gift shop – 6.5%; and business support – 2%.


Can I come see your animals? Is the only way to see them on a guided tour?

Yes! We offer guided public tours on the weekends throughout the year by online ticket purchase and field trips and private tours during the week by reservation (requires 2 weeks advance notice).

You do have to be escorted by a trained staff member or volunteer at all times while visiting the animals. You will be able to get much closer to the animals, and because tours represent an interactive time in the animals’ routine, the animals are more responsive to you. Guided visits also allow us to explain more about the circumstances that have affected each animal individually and the species they represent.

How is the Twilight Tour different from other tours?

In the wild, wild cats typically hunt at dawn and dusk and are more active at night. This tour is provided after business hours, when the sanctuary is quiet and the animals are more active – making for a more intimate experience. The tour is open to adults only (ages 18 and up). The animals included on the tour and the length of the tour are similar to the public tours.

What makes you different from a zoo?

Carolina Tiger Rescue is a refuge, providing animals a safe, comfortable home for the remainder of their lives. Zoos generally do not rescue, acquire animals from the public, or accept animals that are not eligible to breed through an official Species Survival or Population Management Plan. In addition, since visitors are limited at Carolina Tiger, animals on the tour route welcome visitors as something new and exciting in their day and interact with people much more directly. Visitors to Carolina Tiger Rescue are escorted by a trained staff or volunteers.


When is the best time to see the animals?

Wild cats are most active at dusk and dawn, making the Twilight Tours very popular. They are also more active during cooler weather. During summer and when it is hotter, many tend to nap more throughout the day.

Will I get to see an animal feeding during my tour?

Feeding is not guaranteed during the tour. The schedule for feeding the animals is independent of the tour schedule. Occasionally the keepers will be feeding during a tour or Tour Guides may provide “treats” for the animals during their tour. This is left to the discretion of the guide and some animals are not permitted treats, either for nutrition or medication management or for behavioral training. Carolina Tiger Rescue does offer a  “Feeding with a Keeper” experience, where visitors may escort a Keeper during feeding.

May I take photos of your animals?

Tour guests may take photos and videos of the animals once they have signed the Visitor Release (which includes a photo release). The release allows you to retain copyright to photos and videos that you take, but Carolina Tiger Rescue is licensed to use those images without further compensation.

You (and your camera) must remain behind the tour fence to take your photos.

Is the sanctuary wheelchair accessible?

The visitor center is wheelchair accessible; however, the sanctuary itself is not very wheelchair friendly. Some people do navigate the route successfully, but the roads are gravel and there are two hills that might be particularly troublesome.

If you have mobility issues, purchase your ticket, then call (919) 542-4684 and let us know you will need assistance for your tour, and we will provide an alternative for you.

How do I reschedule or get a refund for tour tickets purchased online?

Like other events for which you purchase tickets (concerts, performances, etc.), we do not offer refunds or exchanges on tour tickets except in the event of thunderstorms or other significant weather events. In that case, staff will notify ticket holders of tour cancellations and those tours will be refunded. Once a tour has begun, only rain checks will be issued for a weather-related event. To appeal this policy, contact our Executive Director. Situations will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

The tour is listed as ||SOLD OUT||. Is there any other way to get tickets for that tour?

No. Each tour is limited to a maximum of 25 people for the comfort of the animals and to ensure that all guests enjoy a meaningful experience.

When I try to purchase tickets I get ||Level Inventory Out of Stock||. What's going on?

You are attempting to purchase more tickets than are available for that tour. We cannot increase the size of the tour group. You will either need to reduce the size of your group or schedule for a different tour.

When I try to purchase tickets, the tour shows as ||Online ticket sales for this event have ended||. Can I get on this tour?

Carolina Tiger Rescue closes online ticket sales one hour prior to the start time of a tour, so that our guide will have an accurate list of expected guests. The amount of spaces left is displayed just above the different ticket levels. If there are spaces remaining on a tour, you may inquire about their availability by calling (919) 542-4684. Staff will handle any ticket purchases and inform the guide of any last minute guests.

If you receive this message and are not trying to purchase less than an hour before the scheduled tour time, there may be another reason for this notification. Call (919) 542-4684 for more information about the status of this tour.

I'm running late for my tour, is that OK?

No. If you are more than 5 minutes late for your tour, we cannot guarantee that you will be able to join the tour group. Please plan to arrive 15 minutes early as suggested.


I have a Membership. How do I sign up for my free tours?

While we have put our Membership program on hold, we will honor all existing Memberships.  To sign up for a tour with your Membership, go to Ticket Information to select your tour. When purchasing your tickets, select “Member Ticket” instead of Adult or Child ticket. During the purchase process, you will be asked for your Member Code – which is your Member number. Enter your number in the box. Then, simply complete the purchase process for your “free” ticket!

I have a Membership. How do I sign up for my free tours?

To sign up for a tour with your Membership, go to Ticket Information to select your tour. When purchasing your tickets, select “Member Ticket” instead of Adult or Child ticket. During the purchase process, you will be asked for your Member Code – which is your Member number. Enter your number in the box. Then, simply complete the purchase process for your “free” ticket!

Can friends or family members use my membership card?

No, your membership card and associated privileges are not transferable to any other individual or family. Only the name on the membership card may be admitted free of charge. With a Dual, Tribe or Tribe Plus membership, free tickets are restricted to the number of guests according to your membership level. We may ask to see your membership card and photo ID at the time of your visit. Please encourage your friends & family to join so they can also enjoy membership benefits.

Does the membership run a calendar year (January through December) or from the date of purchase?

The membership is valid for one year from the date of purchase. Gift memberships may be set up to be valid for one year from the date of the special occasion (i.e. birthday, graduation, or holiday) if indicated at time of purchase.

Will I have to show my membership card and photo ID when I use my free or discounted member tickets or request the 10% gift shop discount?

To prevent misuse of your membership, we may ask you to show your membership card and a photo ID. We appreciate your understanding. As a nonprofit organization, we rely heavily on memberships and tour income for support.

Is my membership tax deductible?

Carolina Tiger Rescue is a charitable 501(c)(3) organization, so this contribution (minus the cost of 1 tour) may be fully deductible, depending on your personal tax situation. Please consult your tax advisor.

Do I automatically become a member if I donate to Carolina Tiger Rescue?

No, only people who purchase a membership are members and receive exclusive membership benefits.

Can I still use a promotional benefit (varies yearly: guest pass, coupon, etc.) if it was left at home/misplaced/lost? Can the benefit be replaced?

No, you must have the benefit with you in order to use it. We are unable to replace promotional benefits.

My promotional benefit (guest pass, coupon, etc.) has expired. Can I still use it?

No, promotional benefits must be used before the expiration date. If you have questions or would like more information about your new or current membership, please contact our Membership Coordinator.

How to Help

How can I help?

Visit “Get Involved” and “Membership & Giving” in the site menu. You will find information about helping an animal through the adoption program, donating to specific projects, what items Carolina Tiger Rescue needs, how you can volunteer your time, and what your business can do to contribute.

Where does Carolina Tiger Rescue get its funding?

Carolina Tiger Rescue is primarily funded by donations from individuals, private foundations such as Earth Share of North Carolina, and corporate sponsors. Additional funding also comes from tour fees and merchandise sales.

Is Carolina Tiger Rescue a tax-exempt organization? What is your nonprofit tax ID number?

Yes, under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code, operating under the legal name of “Carnivore Preservation, Inc.”, Carolina Tiger Rescue’s tax ID number is 56-1522499.

Is my gift to Carolina Tiger Rescue tax deductible?

Gifts to Carolina Tiger Rescue qualify for tax exemption under the above-referenced IRS code. You should always check with your tax adviser regarding your personal circumstances and whether a particular gift will be deductible.

Do you accept donated deer?

Yes. Carolina Tiger Rescue does accept donated deer to feed the animals under specific circumstances. Hunters may donate deer, provided that the carcass has been kept under suitable conditions so that the meat has not spoiled. Roadkill deer are only acceptable if the person donating the deer witnessed the deer getting hit and the carcass is fresh. Please call (919) 542-4684 to ask if your deer is suitable for donating.

About Carolina Tiger Rescue

Carolina Tiger Rescue is a 501(c)3 nonprofit wildlife sanctuary whose mission is saving and protecting wild cats in captivity and in the wild.

Carolina Tiger Rescue

1940 Hanks Chapel Rd. Pittsboro, NC 27312 (919) 542-4684 (919) 542-4454

Wildlife should be in the Wild



  • We believe the ideal home for wildlife is in the wild.
  • We believe it is critical to conserve their native habitats.
  • We believe wild animals should not be kept as pets.
  • We believe captive breeding should ONLY be done in accordance with Species Survival plans.
  • We believe all wild animals, both captive and in their native habitats, deserve to be treated with respect and not exploited for entertainment and commercial purposes.

Visit Carolina Tiger Rescue

Tiger at Carolina Tiger Rescue

Public Tours

Twilight Tours

Coming out for a tour is a great way to learn more about the animals that call Carolina Tiger Recue home. We offer many different types of tours.  Public tours are great for adults and families. Twilight tours are for adults only (18 years of age and older). Tiger Tales are a perfect option if you want to bring out really young children. Find the tour that is right for you and enjoy a walk through the sanctuary.

For all tours, tickets must be purchased in advance.

Have Fun Learning at Carolina Tiger Rescue

Field Trips

Field Trips

Virtual Field Trips link

Virtual Field Trips

Education is key to our mission.  We enjoy teaching "kids" of all ages!  Our field trips, both virtual and onsite, are ideal for groups of kids.  Our "Kid for a Day" Adult Camp provides a unique learning opportunity while allowing adults to channel their inner child.  While all of these opportunities are structured differently, in the end we want everyone to walk away knowing more about the animals we care for and what they can do to help protect them.

Bobcat at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
Caracal at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
Coatimundi at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
Cougar at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
Kinkajou at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
Lion at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
NGSD at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
Porcupine at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
Raccoon at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
Red Wolf at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
Red Wolves
Serval at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
Tiger at Carolina Tiger Rescue
Learn about
Keeper Stripes

Get involved at Carolina Tiger Rescue

Individual volunteering at Carolina Tiger Rescue

Individual Volunteering

Group volunteering at Carolina Tiger Rescue

Group Volunteering

There are so many ways to be a part of Carolina  Tiger Rescue.  Individual volunteers are able to help in many aspects of our work, including animal care, tour guides, construction, and gift shop assistance.  Work groups come from community groups, colleges, work places, and more!  It’s a great way to spend a day and it helps care for the cats.