Karl Mitchell & Buk
Karl Mitchell, owner and operator of Big Cat Encounters Ranch, started in the animal world 25 years ago when he trained his house cat to ride on his motorcycle with him. A veteran animal trainer was impressed and invited Karl to help him in his business. Eventually Mitchell became a sort of animal guru, able to train animals ranging from antelope to zebra. His real passion has become the big cats of Africa and tigers from India.
Mitchell is dedicated to the preservation of rare animals. "The tigers are much more rare than the lions," he says," though they are more difficult animal to work with since they are lone individualists, not family- oriented like lions." Tigers are also bigger. A mature lion can weigh 500 pounds, but a full-grown Bengal tiger can tip the scales at 700 pounds.
Mitchell does not believe in surrounding his tigers and lions with concrete. His animals are often roaming the fenced-in ranch, and are leashed only when visitors arrive. He trains the animals using love and positive reinforcement, techniques he learned from the trainers he was apprenticed to in Hollywood. He has worked on numerous television shows including Barretta and Emergency. His trained lions and tigers have appeared in many movies, television shows and in photo layouts in such prominent magazines such as Vogue and Elle. Las Vegas convention delegates sometimes see the animals making appearances at various conventions and trade shows on the Strip. The Ranch is often used as a location for international magazine and rock video shoots.
Return to India
Show business is one thing but Karl Mitchell's long-range goal is to take some of his Nevada-born tigers back to India. "There are 23 wildwife sanctuaries in India cooperating with Project Tiger, a program with the express goal of repopulating these areas with tigers to make up for those illegally poached before there were parks established," says Mitchell. "I'm contacting them to see what their needs are so that enventually one of my tigers can grow up in what should be his native land."