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Posted on Sep 25, 2010 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Center for Endangered Cats Craig Wagner

Center for Endangered Cats Craig Wagner

The Center for Endangered Cats

was owned by Craig Wagner and Cynthia Lee Gamble.  Check for yourself to see if they meet the sanctuary standards for an accredited animal refuge.   Cindi Gamble was mauled to death by a 500 lb tiger at this USDA approved facility.  See why USDA permits do not ensure public safety nor do they enforce decent living conditions for the animals.  USDA is underfunded and under staffed and yet many states exempt facilities based upon the mistaken notion that USDA can properly regulate all of these backyard breeders and dealers.  Read more about their alleged past history.

tiger attackApril 6, 2006 Duxbury (15 Mi. E. of Sandstone) MN: Cindi Gamble was mauled to death by one of her tigers at the USDA inspected Center for Endangered Cats that she had co owned with Craig Wagner who was wanted for animal abuse in WI.  Wagner now runs Great Cats World Park in southern Oregon. The sheriff said one of the drop doors was apparently left open, leaving Gamble exposed to the tiger. Investigators said the tiger was so out of control that they had to kill the cat to get to the body.

More on this story

Tiger trainer was fearless, but one cat was a killer

Pine County mauling death is Minnesota’s first fatality in a string of animal attacks

BY RICK LINSK

Pioneer Press

Cynthia Lee Gamble was known for being fearless, friends say. But when the longtime animal handler went into the cages that housed her beloved tigers near Sandstone, Minn., something went tragically wrong.

On Friday, as investigators worked to understand how Gamble came to be fatally mauled by a 500-pound Bengal tiger — the first such death in the state, authorities said — friends and neighbors shook their heads in sadness and remembered the hard-working single parent who remained devoted to big cats despite recent adversity in her life.

For years, Gamble was widely known for exhibiting animals at civic events and schools, most recently from her base in Duxbury, Minn., about 90 miles north of the Twin Cities. She raised, trained, and filmed wolves, wolverines, coyotes, and foxes; produced several films about exotic animals; and wrote a children’s book on leopards.

“Cindy was a great person,” said Michael McCullen, a neighbor whose daughter is a friend of Gamble’s 14-year-old son Garrett. “My daughter was there quite a few times and saw the cats. What it basically comes down to was a horrible, tragic thing.”

Gamble, 52, was found dead shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday by a friend visiting the 80-acre site, said Pine County Sheriff Mark Mansavage.

The tigers were housed in separate cages within a larger fenced enclosure. The individual cages were normally closed off from a “pass-through” area by drop doors, Mansavage said. The sheriff said one of the drop doors was apparently left open, leaving Gamble exposed to the tiger.

“It appears the cat took one leap and was on her,” Mansavage said.

McCullen, a longtime member of the local fire and rescue squad, responded to the scene.

“My first thought was, ‘Where’s Garrett?’ ” McCullen said. “When I left my driveway, all I was thinking about was Garrett.”

Friends said Gamble, a native of Ohio, was a longtime animal enthusiast. She and ex-husband Steve Kroschel, a cinematographer, began working with animals years ago in nature photography and commercial advertisements, said friend Lee Greenly. She had an animal exhibitor’s license from the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Gamble then began working with larger animals such as tigers, creating the Center for Endangered Cats with business partner Craig Wagner in 1992, at first in Hugo and then on 30 acres in Forest Lake Township.

In 1997, more than 30 neighbors signed a petition protesting the center, saying it endangered lives and lowered property values. Allegations were aired of unsafe conditions, according to court records, including cats escaping their cages and a bite that hospitalized one of Gamble’s colleagues.

“I’m not surprised at all,” said former township board member Dick Tschida of Thursday’s attack. Tschida said he once inspected the Forest Lake site and found safety hazards.

“People become pretty complacent about the animals,” he said. “I’d have expected it a lot sooner considering the conditions under which she operated in Forest Lake.”

Gamble moved to her 80 acres on Duxbury Road in Pine County, which has no zoning ordinance regulating ownership of wild animals.

Gamble was on the road nine months a year as the center’s 40 cats made television appearances including NBC’s “Today” show, according to a 2002 story in the weekly Pine County Courier. Gamble also had a hand in the 2000 movie “Vertical Limit,” providing two snow leopards for a brief sequence.

The center did not let the public onto its grounds, and colleagues said Gamble was a careful operator. It was not her practice to walk into the cages alone, Greenly said.

But Mike Janis, the former director of the Duluth Zoo who once visited the center, said that while impressed with how Gamble and Wagner ran it overall, he was concerned that they occasionally would enter the cages with the tigers.

“A single person never, ever works alone with a big carnivore. All you have to do is slip, or not make sure a gate is closed, and something can happen,” Janis said.

Friends said Gamble and Wagner split and Wagner moved to Oregon a few years ago with many of CEC’s best show animals. Gamble stayed in Minnesota with the remaining animals.

Wagner, who now runs Great Cats World Park in southern Oregon, declined to commentFriday.

“We’re all really devastated here,” said the woman who answered the phone at the park.

Gamble, deeply in debt, filed a bankruptcy petition in 2004. Among her possessions were two tigers and a caracal, similar to a lynx, worth $500 in all. She took a job at the Grand Casino in Hinckley and also worked in a local restaurant for a time.

Gamble’s death is the first in the state from a tiger attack, the sheriff and others said, but it is not the first mauling. There was a spate of attacks last year, including a 10-year-old boy critically injured by a lion and tiger.

A new law that took effect Jan. 1, 2005, banned private ownership of wild animals in Minnesota but allowed owners to keep animals they had before that date. Owners were required to register their animals with local authorities unless they met one of the law’s exceptions, for instance wildlife sanctuaries.

Mansavage, the Pine County sheriff, said Gamble had not registered with his office.

Interest groups on both sides weighed in Friday. PETA, the animal rights group, said it had sent letters to Minnesota legislators urging that only accredited zoos and sanctuaries be allowed to own big cats and exotic animals. The group said there had been 196 dangerous incidents in 39 states involving big cats, with a sharp increase in recent years.

Exotic animal enthusiasts fired back, saying most of the deaths involved owners or handlers who had accepted the risk, rather than members of the public.

Mansavage said the difficult recovery of Gamble’s body Thursday night made a powerful impression on him.

“It was one of the worst things I’ve ever come across,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you how many times (the tiger) kept running at the fences and just making that screeching roar. It’s something I’ll probably never, ever forget. I don’t know how these people get used to it and work with those animals.”

Alex Friedrich contributed to this report.

http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/14293286.htm

 

Carole Baskin Quoted on the Issue by Robin Washington:

Tiger tragedy turns spotlight on ethics of keeping big cats

If there was anyone who knew anything about big cats, it would have been Cynthia Lee Gamble, a woman who kept a menagerie of tigers, cougars and other wild felines on her 80-acre Pine County property. Yet that knowledge failed to protect her from an obvious fact of nature — that wild animals are wild — illustrated all too tragically last week when she was found dead, mauled by one of her tigers.

Gamble, who was 52, was not a novice at caring for and living with exotic, and dangerous, species. Her interest began as a nature photographer and eventually grew into her Center for Endangered Species, which she founded in Hugo, Minn., with a former partner before moving it to Pine County, near Sandstone.

Her work was well-publicized, the Pine County Courier reported in 2002, noting television appearances by 40 of the center’s cats, including on NBC’s “Today” show and in a Hollywood movie. Indeed, Gamble was hardly shy about marketing her ferocious cats, with the now-defunct CEC Web site saying, “Our feline ambassadors are trained to pose for the camera. They have appeared in books, calendars, on posters & postcards, as well as enhanced many magazine articles.”

Yet the Web page also included more troubling passages, such as “Our cats also specialize in stunt action and mock attacks, as well as snarling, leaping, jumping, running, and climbing. If you are looking for specific behaviors, call in advance so the trainers at The Center can prep each individual cat.”

Prep them? To snarl and make mock attacks? How exactly does that further the survival and well-being of endangered species?

With Gamble’s death coming after a rash of Minnesota big cat attacks — none before fatal — in recent years, other exotic species owners and sanctuaries wasted no time offering their spin on the tragedy.

“You have a better chance of winning the lottery jackpot (1 in 175,711,536), than being killed by a captive large cat (1 in 297,618,284),” Zuzana Kukol, a Las Vegas exotic animal owner and trainer, wrote in an e-mail to the News Tribune. By phone, she elaborated, saying media hysteria following big cat attacks unfairly taints owners as irresponsible.

“I didn’t know her,” she said of Gamble, adding, “I would say she knew what she was doing. She was inspected by the USDA.”

But another message, from Carol Baskin of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla., took the opposite approach.

“This facility was USDA inspected and illustrates why a USDA permit does not insure safety nor decent conditions for the animals,” she e-mailed, continuing: “A volunteer at the Center for Endangered Cats reported to the Wildcat Sanctuary in MN that cats were found dead due to starvation and dehydration.”

Baskin too confirmed by phone she did not know Gamble, but said no one has any reason to own big cats.

“I don’t believe these animals belong in private possession. We’re doing everything we can to change the law,” she said, adding her facility takes in abused and rejected big cats — about five a year — to spend the remainder of their days.

There are any number of self-proclaimed animal sanctuaries professing to operate in the best interest of their exotic charges. While Baskin sounds convincing — and so too, perhaps, did Gamble to many people — it is difficult to know which facility is true to that mission versus those that are little more than fronts for roadside carnivals.

Wherever Gamble’s center stood on that scale, statements on the Web site clearly weren’t written from the point of view of animals trying to live out their lives naturally in an unnatural environment. Tigers aren’t native to Minnesota, no matter how convincing the center’s claim (“The Center is in wild and scenic Minnesota, halfway between Minneapolis and Duluth. We have beautiful rivers, waterfalls, ponds, woods, and rocky cliffs and outcroppings. … We can match every cat to its natural habitat.”)

Perhaps Gamble loved her animals and died, albeit in a manner few would wish to endure, doing what she wanted to do. It’s doubtful, though, the same can be said of her cats.

…and who was watching the tigers?

Posted on Fri, Apr. 14, 2006

Details emerging from the tragic Pine County tiger attack that took the life of trainer Cynthia Gamble last week paint a more gruesome picture than previously imagined. The tiger, now euthanized, was examined and found to have had parts of the woman’s body in its stomach. The cat was at least 150 pounds underweight, no doubt a major factor in the killing.

Gamble, who held a USDA license for her bankrupt Center for Endangered Cats, was described by friends as an expert handler who “loved” her feline charges. That would have been tough love at best. No reasonable parent would starve a child out of love, and Gamble’s terrible fate offers the most compelling case yet against private ownership of big cats.

Not helping is the confusion of who’s really acting in the interest of the animals. Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla., denounces private ownership of menageries such as Gamble’s. Las Vegas tiger trainer Zuzana Kukol expressed support of Gamble but accuses Baskin of breeding cats rather than rescuing them from abusive owners. Baskin calls that “old news,” saying her past actions are what make her so adamant against the practice.

Whatever. The whole scat fight is reason, as expressed in a letter on this page, for restricting big cats to their natural habitats or zoos — and accredited ones at that.

Veterinary report says tiger was starving when it killed owner

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS – The Bengal tiger that attacked and killed its owner last week was starving and only weighed about half as much as it should have, according to a report from a University of Minnesota veterinarian.

The male tiger killed Cynthia Gamble, 52, inside its cage at her property east of Sandstone last Thursday. The tiger was euthanized and taken to the university’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for examination.

The report said the tiger was “cachetic,” meaning it was emaciated, and that it weighed 118 kilograms – the equivalent of 260 pounds and about half of what a 10-year-old tiger’s normal weight would typically be.

The report said the tiger had no significant injuries, and tests for rabies were negative.

The report also said the tiger’s teeth “were markedly worn or had been intentionally trimmed down.”

Gamble held an exhibitor’s license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which permitted her to show animals at public venues.

Her services will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at St. John Lutheran Church in Kroschel, west of Hinckley. The family asks that memorials be sent to the Columbus Zoo, 9990 Riverside Dr., Columbus, OH 43065.

Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

April 8, 2006

Dead woman’s tigers to be taken to sanctuary

Controversial nonprofit recently relocated to site near home of victim

BY MEGGEN LINDSAY

Pioneer Press

Pine County authorities will seize two Bengal tigers left at a former animal breeding business where a third tiger mauled and killed its owner this past week, the sheriff said Saturday.

The decision to take the big cats was made after Cynthia Lee Gamble was killed Thursday by one of her tigers after a cage was apparently left open. The animals will live — at least temporarily — at the Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone, Minn., which relocated within five miles of Gamble’s rural Duxbury property a few weeks ago.

The tigers will be removed from Gamble’s land in the next few days, Sheriff Mark Mansavage said.

“In the meantime, they are being cared for by someone with experience,” he said. “We’re not just walking away from this.”

The nonprofit Wildcat Sanctuary, a 40-acre expanse that houses some 20 abandoned captive wildcats, is accustomed to finding refuge for tigers.

Executive director Tammy Quist said her organization has removed 33 tigers from Minnesota homes and back yards in the past year. She also fields an average of 30 calls every month from big-cat owners seeking to get rid of their “pets,” she said.

The sanctuary typically does not keep tigers and works to permanently place them in other accredited facilities across the United States.

Bengal tigers, native to India and other areas of southern Asia, are a critically endangered species, according to the World Wildlife Fund. India is home to most of the world’s tigers, with fewer than 5,000.

“People from all over the state unfortunately keep these animals. We’ve taken calls from Minnetonka, Burnsville and Edina,” she said. “People take cute and cuddly cubs and don’t think down the road of what the animals will be like when they grow up.”

A man who worked on the property found Gamble, 52, dead Thursday in an area connected by a small open gate to a 500-pound tiger’s cage.

The Ramsey County medical examiner’s office is expected to release autopsy results Monday, but Mansavage said there was little doubt the tiger killed her. Authorities euthanized the big cat and sent its body to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Hospital to be examined.

Gamble was not a private tiger owner in the typical sense, Quist said, pointing out that Gamble had an animal exhibitor’s license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Gamble was widely known for showing her animals at civic events and schools, and had appeared on NBC’s “Today” show. She raised, trained and filmed exotic animals and wrote a children’s book on leopards.

“She definitely had a different philosophy than our organization does about these animals,” said Quist, whom authorities called to the scene to tranquilize the tiger. Her nonprofit does not show or breed its animals, but instead serves as a haven for abused or unwanted big cats.

“It appears that this was a tragic accident. A protocol was missed somewhere, but we just don’t know more than that,” she said. “We do know that this animal didn’t pose a public danger. It was not off exhibit.”

Despite Gamble’s federal license, she failed to register her animals with the county as required under a 2005 state law. Because of that, Mansavage said, the county is posting notice of the seizure in case there is another owner.

“We don’t expect anyone to come forward, however, and are lucky the sanctuary is so close,” the sheriff said.

Sanctuary workers hope others in Pine County share that sentiment. Quist is braced for local resistance to her organization, the only accredited big-cat sanctuary in the Upper Midwest.

The sanctuary moved from Athens Township in Isanti County after a protracted battle with officials there over a tiger Quist cared for that recently died of cancer. The sanctuary’s permit in that county did not allow lions or tigers to be housed.

“This incident illustrates why there’s a need for sanctuaries like ours,” she said. “Local authorities are not equipped to handle something like this.”

Meggen Lindsay can be reached at mlindsay@pioneerpress.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 651-228-5260.

More…

SANDSTONE, Minn. — A Bengal tiger attacked and killed its owner at a former animal breeding business, the latest in a series of recent maulings involving captive exotic animals in the state.

Cynthia Lee Gamble, 52, was found in an area connected to the 500-pound tiger’s cage by a small, open gate, Pine County Sheriff Mark Mansavage said Friday. He said a man who had gone to work on the property Thursday found the woman’s body.

The tiger was euthanized and taken to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Hospital for testing.

Two other Bengal tigers on the property were being cared for by Gamble’s friends, Mansavage said.

Sandstone is about 85 miles north of St. Paul. Unlike many other counties in the state, Pine County does not have an ordinance restricting ownership of exotic animals.

Exotic animals kept at private homes have attacked several people in Minnesota in the past 12 months. A 10-year-old boy was left partially paralyzed last summer after being attacked by a lion and tiger at a Little Falls residence. Last April, four tigers attacked and wounded a 37-year-old woman in southeastern Minnesota.

Tiger Mauls Woman To Death

(WCCO) Duxbury, Minn. A Bengal tiger attacked and killed a woman in rural Duxbury, Minn. Thursday night, police said.

The woman, Cynthia Lee Gamble, 52, kept the tiger on her property and the attack happened at her residence. She had several other “large” animals and exotic pets on her property, police said.

The attack happened around 5:15 p.m. A man who was going to do a controlled burn on the property made the call to police.

The man said when he got to the house, he found a woman lying in one of the tiger pens who appeared to be dead.

Pine County Sheriff Mark Mansavage said there was “no doubt” the tiger was responsible for the death.

Investigators said the tiger responsible for the mauling was so out of control, they had to euthanize it to get to the woman. The man also said the tiger would not allow him to get to the victim.

The woman’s parents and son were home at the time of the attack.

The nearby Wildcat Sanctuary was called in to help with the incident, but authorities said they were not needed once they arrived.

“In the last year alone, we’ve removed 33 tigers from Minnesota’s backyards,” said Tammy Quist with the Sanctuary. “It’s very unfortunate, but this happens. We’re hoping to get more information but it shows why these animals shouldn’t be kept in private entities.”

The woman was licensed to keep tigers on her property, investigators said. She was also a breeder of wild cats at one time.

It is unknown how many tigers were kept on the property, or what lead to the mauling, police said.

The tiger weighed about 500 pounds and was taken to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Hospital for testing. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner will perform an autopsy on the woman.

Duxbury is 90 miles north of the Twin Cities and about 15 miles east of Sandstone, Minn.

The first version:

The woman kept the tiger on her property and the attack happened at her residence. The woman, who was in her mid-40s, had several other “large” animals and exotic pets on her property, police said.

The attack happened around 5:15 p.m. A man who was going to do a controlled burn on the property made the call to police.

The man said when he got to the house, he found a woman lying in one of the tiger pens who appeared to be dead.

Investigators said the tiger responsible for the mauling was so out of control, they had to euthanize it to get to the woman. The man also said the tiger would not allow him to get to the victim.

The woman’s parents and son were home at the time of the attack.

The nearby Wildcat Sanctuary was called in to help with the incident, but authorities said they were not needed once they arrived.

“In the last year alone, we’ve removed 33 tigers from Minnesota’s backyards,” said Tammy Quist with the Sanctuary. “It’s very unfortunate, but this happens. We’re hoping to get more information but it shows why these animals shouldn’t be kept in private entities.”

The woman was licensed to keep tigers on her property, investigators said. She was also a breeder of wild cats at one time.

It is unknown how many tigers were kept on the property, or what lead to the mauling, police said.

The tiger weighed about 500 pounds and was taken to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Hospital for testing. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner will perform an autopsy on the woman.

Duxbury is 90 miles north of the Twin Cities and about 15 miles east of Sandstone, Minn.

Watch the News Story Video story from WCCO.com

Just two days before

in the County where this happened on 4/6/06:  Pine County has no zoning ordinance governing wildcats, and county board vice chairman Roger Nelson doesn’t believe the board will consider one, unless a problem arises.

Past History on Woman Mauled to Death By Tiger

We keep files on those who have reportedly bred and abused big cats and the following has been sent to us over the years, but is not our own personal knowledge. The statements should not be considered fact, but should be investigated. This facility was USDA inspected and illustrates why a USDA permit does not insure safety nor decent conditions for the animals.

A volunteer at the facility stated that cats were found dead due to starvation and dehydration at this MN facility. She said Center for Endangered Cats contracted for an exhibit in Oregon and hired only one person to care for the cats in MN with no back up staffing. It turns out the individual hired to do so, failed to feed and water the cats for approximately 1 week.

Craig Wagner & Cyndi Gamble
Center for Endangered Cats
RR#2, Box 115
Sandstone, MN 55072
USDA Licensed

Alleged Animals Dead:
Kayla, Female Snow Leopard
Clyde, Male Breeding Amur Leopard
Nala, Female Breeding Amur Leopard
Kwai, Male Caracal
Nadia, Female Siberian Lynx
One Paw, Wolverine
CEC currently has a license and cats in Sandstone, MN but are also contracted at Wildlife Safari, (P.O. Box 1600, Winston Oregon 97496 Or call (541) 679-6761) for “The Great Cats of the Wild Show”, and also has an inventory of cats there.

Past History:

Source: Animal Underworld
Craig Wagner was cited as far back as 1990 for a Leopard and Tiger being changed outside in yard once again with no food or water. This was Wagner’s fifth citation from WI DNR. Nothing changed and the starving tiger killed the black leopard and ate it. In return, Wagner allegedly beat the cat with a two-by-four.

Wagner was found guilty in March 1993 and received a nine month jail sentence, which was stayed by the judge. He was placed on probation for 2 years and ordered to pay more than $45,000 in restitution. Because Wagner failed to comply with the restitution order, a warrant for his arrest was issued in 1997.

Wagner then moved part of his organization to MN where he traveled and did cat shows for Renaissance Festivals until PETA protested that he housed cats inhumanely and he lost most of that work. There have been several incidences in MN that forced Wagner to move around the state three times. (check Hugo and Forest Lake, Mn. records)

Within the last two years, he started moving cats to OR and doing the shows at Wildlife Safari.

There were several cats that are endangered species (snow leopard and 2 breeding pair of Amur Leopards – less than 300 remain in the wild) that were given to CEC by other organizations. The local Sheriff’s department said that had talked to Cyndi and felt it was under control.

Witnesses claim that there are several more cats in poor condition at the Sandstone property including 2 orange tigers, 1 white tiger, cougar, black leopard, snow leopard, 2 caracals, lioness, and North American lynx.

Words from a volunteer – “All of the cats looked like skeletons with a piece of fur draped over them.”

Sources claim the Center for Endangered Cats currently have the following cats in OR.
1 yr old Amur Leopard Male
2yr old black leopard female
2 3yr old Amur Leopards
1 Amur leopard cub
5 yr old Ocelot male
6yr old Ocelot male
1-1/2 yr old female Geoffreys cat
1yr old tiger
3 yr old Siberian female
5yr old Fishing cat
1 Snow leopard featured in the movie Vertical Limit.
3yr old black leopard
5 or 6 and is a very nice male cougar

In Animal Underworld, Alan Green tells the story of Craig Wagner, a man from Minnesota who passed by a cougars for sale sign one day and became a self-declared big cat lover from then on. Wagner’s neighbors became unhappy when Wagner moved his cats into the neighborhood, and attempted to push him out. Others took Wagner’s side. Dozens of volunteers helped build and maintain a shelter for the cats. Others provided support.
Local schools asked Wagner to inform children about protecting the environment.
Wagner even founded The Center for Endangered Cats. What they didn’t know was that Wagner was located in Minnesota for a reason. Wagner ran to Minnesota because there was a warrant for his arrest in nearby Wisconsin for horrid animal cruelty acts. Because these issues are state jurisdiction, Wisconsin could do nothing but wait for Wagner to return.

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