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Carolina Tiger Rescue in Pittsboro (History + How to Visit!)

Published by Carl Hedinger. Last Updated on March 28, 2024.

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Carolina Tiger Rescue in Pittsboro, North Carolina, is a big cat sanctuary that houses ten species, including tigers, lions, servals, cougars, leopards, bobcats, kinkajous, and coatimundis.

Their mission is to save and protect wild animals both in captivity and in the wild, and this philosophy informs their rescue, educational, and advocacy work. Long before visiting, we knew this place belonged on our NC bucket list.

A tour of the tiger sanctuary confirmed our belief that this is a special place and one that you must visit. We created this guide to honor Carolina Tiger Rescue’s history and mission and how you can also visit.

Carolina Tiger Rescue side view of tiger

Here’s how we have organized this NC travel guide to Carolina Tiger Rescue:

  • Where is Carolina Tiger Rescue?
  • History of Carolina Tiger Rescue
  • How to Visit
  • Tours and Ticket Info
    • Field Trips and Camps
  • Important Tips!
  • Things to Do Nearby

Read More: 50 of the Best Day Trips from Raleigh (Fun Getaways!)

Where is Carolina Tiger Rescue?

Address: 1940 Hanks Chapel Rd, Pittsboro, NC
Phone Number: 919-542-4684
Official Website

Carolina Tiger Rescue is located in Pittsboro, closest to Chapel Hill (30 Minutes Away) and also within a short drive from these places in Central NC:

GPS isn’t always reliable for this location, so follow the Rescue’s detailed directions to ensure you find your way.

If you’re looking for a visual way to plan your trip to the area, you can use the following maps we’ve created with Google Maps:

History of Carolina Tiger Rescue

Carolina Tiger Rescue tiger 2

Before we dive into visiting Carolina Tiger Rescue today, let’s walk through the history of how such a cool place came to be.

  • Carolina Tiger Rescue was first founded in 1973 by Dr. Michael Bleyman, a professor at nearby UNC-Chapel Hill.
  • Dr. Bleyman opened the site as a captive breeding facility for endangered wild animals and served as its Executive Director until he died in 1996.
  • In 1996, Carolina Tiger Rescue shifted its focus to what it is today: a sanctuary for rescued wild animals and an educational institution. It discontinued its breeding programs in accordance with the Species Survival Plans (SSP), a worldwide effort to preserve endangered species.
Carolina Tiger Rescue other cats
  • Today, Carolina Tiger Rescue believes that wild animals belong in the wild, and one of their main functions is rescuing animals that used to be pets, were abandoned, or used to reside at a now-closed facility.
  • They provide these animals with a lifelong home that strives to mimic their natural habitat as much as possible.
  • Additionally, the tiger sanctuary works to educate the public on these animals and how they can help protect them, as well as advocate for laws and policies that will preserve these animals.

Read More: 125+ Important Facts About North Carolina You Should Know (History, Geography, and More!)

How to Visit Carolina Tiger Rescue

Book Before You Visit

Carolina Tiger Rescue tiger fun

Carolina Tiger Rescue offers guided tours, field trips, and camps, all providing visitors with an up-close look at the animals and the sanctuary’s work.

Tours are booked online in advance, and the Rescue advises that they often sell out two weeks in advance. Don’t worry if you skimmed this section because we’ll be reminding you multiple times to book in advance.

Tours and Ticket Info

Carolina Tiger Rescue tiger hospital

There are four tour options to choose from. All tours occur rain or shine, so come prepared for the weather!

  • Public tours ($18 for ages 13+, $12.50 for ages 4-12, and free for ages 0-3): These are the most popular tours, occurring every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday throughout the year. The tour lasts approximately 1.5-2 hours and require walking.

As mentioned, reservations must be made beforehand and tend to sell out 1-2 weeks before the tour. Get your ticket early!

Carolina Tiger Rescue tours walking
  • Twilight Tours ($28 per person): The specialized Twilight Tours run from March to October on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. This tour offers guests a more intimate experience at the sanctuary, as most wild animals are more active at night. Twilight Tours guests must be 18 years or older. The Twilight Tour lasts 1.5 hours and is guided by a trained professional.
  • Tiger Tales Family Tours ($11 per person): These tours are especially for children between 2 and 7 years old and their accompanying adults. Tiger Tales happen monthly throughout the year, usually on Wednesday mornings.
Carolina Tiger Rescue Tiger
  • Private Tours (See Pricing Below): Private tours are great for larger groups as they are exclusive, as opposed to public tours. Bookings for private tours can be made by calling or emailing for a reservation. Private tours can be given on any day of the week except for Tuesday afternoons, and any time between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
    • Monday-Thursday private tours are $200 for 1-10 guests plus $20 for each additional guest.
    • Weekend and holiday tours are $500. All tours have a 25-guest maximum.

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Field Trips and Camps

Carolina Tiger Rescue tours

School and organization field trips can be scheduled for Mondays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays throughout the year. Each field trip can accommodate 100 people including students, chaperones, and teachers.

Prices differ for K-12 groups, college groups, and non-school groups. Additionally, Carolina Tiger Rescue also offers “field trips to go,” meaning they can come to you!

Carolina Tiger Rescue lioness

During the summer, Carolina Tiger Rescue has enriching and educational camps for kids and high school students.

The kids camp is a two-week session for students from 3rd to 8th grade and teaches them about wildcats, veterinarian skills, and biology.

The high school session is a three-day workshop that includes more hands-on experience and projects. Both experiences are great ways to expose children to Carolina Tiger Rescue’s mission.

Important Tips Before You Visit (and For After)

Carolina Tiger Rescue kid friendly

Here are some important tips based on everything we’ve shared so far, plus a few more things you should know about this North Carolina big cat rescue:

  • Buy your tickets two weeks in advance. Yes, I have repeated this many times but what’s one more time going to hurt?
  • Pay attention to your GPS and follow the Rescue’s detailed directions if you’re unsure.
  • Gift Shop: After your tour, stop by the Savannah Station Gift Shop to pick up some souvenirs of your time here! They have everything from stickers to plush toys, mugs, apparel, and so much more! All proceeds from the gift shop go to operating the sanctuary and caring for the animals.
Carolina Tiger Rescue happy tigers
  • Volunteer Opportunities: Carolina Tiger Rescue is also always looking for volunteers! They have both 12-month and 6-month commitments, the latter of which is perfect for students. Volunteers can assist with animal care, lead the tours, work in the gift shop, or assist with construction and maintenance.
Carolina Tiger Rescue volunteers
  • Donate to Help the Animals: You can also donate to the sanctuary and know that every cent of your donation will go towards the care and preservation of the animals.
  • Spread the Word about Wildlife Parks: General knowledge of keeping wild cats as pets has become more widespread recently, with the Tiger King documentary sweeping the nation in 2020.
    • In 2021, Carolina Tiger Rescue temporarily took in four cats from Tiger King Park after 68 cats were seized from the park. The documentary and the spreading of knowledge about wildlife parks were essential in allowing these big cats to have a safe and secure home at Carolina Tiger Rescue.

Documentaries like Tiger King are tragic reminders (with limited exceptions) for us to visit and promote AZA-affiliated zoos and aquariums.

Read More: The Most Amazing Museums in North Carolina (for ALL Ages!)

Ready to Visit Carolina Tiger Rescue?

Carolina Tiger Rescue white tiger

We’ve raved about Carolina Tiger Rescue for this entire article, but we’d love to hear from you. Have you ever visited? If so, what did you think of this special big cat sanctuary in North Carolina?

Let us know in the comments, and if you haven’t been before, we’d love to hear about your first visit.

Remember to share your adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group! Photos are most welcome!

Things to Do Near Carolina Tiger Rescue

Beyond Carolina Tiger Rescue, there are some fun things to do in Pittsboro, Chatham County, and elsewhere nearby.

Carolina Brewery in Pittsboro
  • After taking a tour of Carolina Tiger Rescue, stop by Carolina Brewery (120 Lowes Dr #100, Pittsboro, NC) for dinner and a pint of beer.
  • Visit downtown Pittsboro, where a charming array of boutiques, restaurants, and shops await.
  • Finally, Fearrington Village is one of the most special spots in the county. The up-scale community has award-winning dining, delightful boutiques, and magical stores. If you want to extend your stay, we highly recommend the Fearrington House Inn & Restaurant (2000 Fearrington Village Center, Pittsboro, NC).

Read More: 50 of the Best Day Trips from Durham

More Things to Do Near Carolina Tiger Rescue (NC Travel Guides)

We’ve featured Carolina Tiger Rescue and these nearby things to do in many of our NC Travel Guides. Here are a few of them.

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