Walnut Prairie Wildside – Thomas Edmonds
USDA license is #33-B-0435. Walnut Prairie Wildside in Illinois belongs to Thomas Edmonds, a backyard breeder/broker who specializes in exotic fowl and recently got into other exotics. As of January 2020, he owned 3 tigers which were purchased as newborn cubs, likely from Tim Stark. All 3 have so far stayed on premises as “pets” of Edmonds, who appears to be very inexperienced and reckless. He appears to have bought the tigers on a whim and trusts them way too much, allowing them to “play” with him. He’s also expressed interest in allowing his tigers to breed at least once because he thinks they “deserve the experience.” I couldn’t find any publicly-available inspection records for his license number and that could be because it was in the name of his ex-wife, which begs the question as to how he’s allowed to continue to exhibit by USDA.
Edmond’s facility technically isn’t open to the public, and it’s unclear if he has an exhibitor’s “C” license from the USDA, but the local media has been advertising the property as a zoo and on Walnut Prairie’s Facebook page, they encourage the public to come and see/interact with the animals (including occasional cub petting) if they send a Facebook message and pay $10. The majority of their profit still likely comes from breeding/brokering exotic animals.
On April 24, 2000 Walnut Prairie Wildside posted this tiger cub video. Note the cub is not secured except with a leash that is let go. https://www.facebook.com/WalnutPrairieWildside/videos/572990983193934/?vh=e&d=n
A neighbor reports: “The terrible facility is called Walnut Prairie Wild side. The owner is Tom Edmonds, he is a felon (go figure), they live 1/4-1/2 mile off Highway Route One in West Union, IL. He allows everyone to take photos with new cubs, play time etc. The tigers and monkeys have bitten small children. A few months ago his new monkey needed its tail amputated because it had a fractured tail! There are stories in the community that his adult tiger had an abscessed tooth so he and some friends held it down and used pliers to pull the tooth..he’s known to be dangerous so I also have to protect myself.”
The visitor was told that the facility is under federal surveillance, and that the Feds have jurisdiction ordering local law enforcement to stand down but this has been going on for years with apparently no action. Allegedly a vet in the Lawrenceville, IL area is helping him sell Cubs on the black market.