A recent Oklahoma State University graduate with a degree in zoology, Anna Stumpf of Booneville has been involved with the largest big cat rescue in US history.

“I’ve always really had a passion for animals, cared for and looked after them ever since I was a kid,” said Stumpf. “In the fourth grade I learned I could be a zoologist.”

That set in motion a rather quick process in which Stumpf was her class salutatorian, a near permanent member of the Dean’s List at Oklahoma State while graduating in three and a half years to being now in her her second internship with Turpentine Creek in Eureka Springs.

It is at Turpentine Creek 110 animals were entrusted after a rescue from a Colorado facility. Though the word rescue might conjure up abuse and or neglect, that wasn’t quite the case, Stumpf said.

“The (owner) there had a facility kind of like a sanctuary and he was diagnosed with cancer. He was looking to hand them over, to a facility,” said Stumpf.

Already a big cat facility with lions, tigers, cougars, leopards and some bears, the Eureka Springs sanctuary was an obvious choices.

As of last week Turpentine Creek was still home to 33 of the animals, which included a mixture of tigers including white tigers, cougars and ligers — a lion and tiger cross — Stumpf said.

The other animals have been placed at other sanctuaries as Turpentine Creek officials have worked with Tigers of America to find suitable homes, because not just anyone should own a big cat though, Stumpf said.

“There are not a whole lot of laws regarding big cat ownership. Five states have none and states that have laws are not great, usually simply getting a permit,” she said. “And in states where there are laws, owners were grandfathered in.”

As for working with the cats Stumpf said, “it’s been a dream come true. It’s really a great facility. I wanted to get an internship as soon as I graduated and I got an email (about the opening). I was lucky enough to get hired and I’ve since landed a second internship.

“I got attached to this place, the people and the animals.”

It didn’t hurt, she said, that mom and dad, Tony and Jean Stumpf are only about two hours away in Booneville.

Turpentine Creek is situated on 469 acres just outside Eureka Springs with the animals on about 100 developed acres. The facility is open form 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily during the winter and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the summer. The facility is open every day of the year except Christmas day.