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Christmas Trees Get Second Lives At Jacksonville Big Cat Sanctuary

WJCT Hometown

A Jacksonville wildlife sanctuary has gotten its Christmas wish—and then some—after asking for discarded holiday trees. The Catty Shack Ranch finds itself turning down hundreds of hopeful evergreen donors.

After Christmas, the Northside wildlife refuge located near the Jacksonville International Airport asked for Christmas trees to use as toys for its big cats. Coordinator Jordan Joseph says the response has been overwhelming.

“We’ve had people in Maryland, Port Orange, Orlando, Atlanta, asking us if we make pickups there, so it’s been wonderful," she says, "and also, Severt’s has donated quite a bit of their leftover trees to us as well.”

Joseph says more than 250 trees have arrived, and there’s no room for any more. The volunteer-run big cat sanctuary is having to answer hundreds of e-mails with “Thanks, but we’re full.”

And thanks to people’s generosity, visitors should be able to see lions, tigers and other cats playing with the trees through the end of February.

“The smell of the pine just doesn’t get old for them; it’s almost like catnip," Joseph says. 

Catty Shack is open Thursdays during the day and Friday and Saturday evenings to the public. 

And for people who wanted to support Catty Shack but didn't get to donate a tree, Joseph says they are invited to make a tax-deductible $1 donation instead. 

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP