Three tiger cubs were born in Maine on June 8, at DEW Animal Kingdom and Sanctuary in Mount Vernon, and it was fairly unexpected.
Bob and Julie Miner, owners of DEW, were sitting on their porch when they heard some strange noises coming from one of their tiger enclosures. And when they went to investigate, they discovered three newborn tiger cubs.
“We knew they had bred, but we didn’t know she was pregnant,” said Heidi Perez, the Miners’ daughter and the marketing coordinator at DEW.
It’s difficult to identify a pregnant tiger because they don’t begin to show a bulge until the last 10 to 12 days of pregnancy.
The father of the trio, a 3-year-old orange Siberian tiger named Tritan, was trying to attack the cubs — a natural reaction for an adult male. And the mother, a 3-year-old white Bengal tiger named Makeena, wasn’t doing much to protect her young.
“She was a first-time mom and very confused,” Perez said.
So the Miners took action, quickly putting the adult tigers in lockdown and removing the cubs. The baby tigers — two white and one orange — are now being kept in playpens in a room off the sanctuary’s gift shop, where visitors can view them as long as they’re quiet.
“They’re very like newborns, eating every three hours, around the clock,” Perez said. “Between their feedings, they’re sleeping.”
This is the first time tigers have been born at the Mount Vernon animal sanctuary. The three cubs will remain at DEW until July 5, when they’ll travel to new homes, which are yet to be decided.
“They’ll go to nonprofit facilities similar to ours, focused on education and breeding programs because they are endangered species,” Perez said.
There are an estimated 3,000 tigers left in the wild today, according to National Geographic.
“At the places they’re going, the people are going to want to bond with them by feeding them,” Perez said to explain the quick departure to their new homes.
Until that time, DEW is offering $50 “tiger encounters” for people over 18 years of age to hold and feed the cubs. Reservations can be made via email at email@example.com. On June 19, the sanctuary had 148 people on the waiting list for a tiger encounter.
“We’re trying to get as many people in as we can without overwhelming the cubs,” Perez said. “We let three people in at each feeding when we’re open. And so far, people have been so appreciative and good with the cats.”
As for Makeena and Tritan, they went back to acting normal and living peacefully in their enclosure. Typically solitary animals, tigers can sometimes live in pairs in captivity, and so far, it’s worked out for the couple, Perez said.
DEW began when Bob Miner, a Vietnam veteran, started taking care of traditional farm animals in 1980. Over time, he became involved with rehabilitating Maine wildlife, and then, rescuing exotic animals.
Bob married Julie in 1994, and together, they grew DEW and moved to 42 acres of land. Today, DEW is home to more than 200 exotic and native animals.
“Their priority and goal is to create a safe place for these animals to be and live out their lives while educating people about these animals and giving people opportunities to see animals like this,” Perez said.
The family-run zoo is currently teaching six interns.
When it comes to wildcats, DEW houses tigers, African lions, servals, lynxes, bobcats, cougars and black leopards. They’re also home to a variety of monkeys, tropical birds, alligators, kangaroos and camels. They have farm animals, such as goats, alpaca and chicken, as well as some animals that you may have never heard of, such as binturong, red-necked wallabies and aoudads. And they’re a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for the state of Maine, so they also take in injured and orphaned wildlife to be rehabilitated and released back into the wild.
All of their animals are listed on their website, dewanimalkingdom.com, where you can find tour rates and learn about the operation. For information, call 293-2837.