Wild Eyes~

When you look into these wild eyes,

what do you see?

I see,

wild hearts,


yearning to be free.

These mountain lions were photographed at The Big Bear Alpine Zoo in Big Bear Lake California.

Big Bear Alpine Zoo is a rescue and rehabilitation facility that provides injured, orphaned and imprinted wild animals a safe haven, either temporarily as they heal, or permanently if they are unable to survive in the wild. 90% of the animals brought to the facility are released back into the wild.

There are 160 animals in the facility currently, comprising 60 different species. There is a golden eagle with one eye, a bear with three legs, a grizzly that was scheduled for euthanasia at Yellowstone, animals that were kept as pets and abandoned when they become too much to handle, and many more animals with sad histories.

A new zoo is under construction that will offer more spacious accommodation with glass enclosures. The zoo is owned by The Big Bear Department of Parks and Recreation and is staffed by county employees (Source: Big Bear Alpine Zoo).

Cheers to you from the gorgeous cats at The Big Bear Alpine Zoo~

For more information check out:


300 thoughts on “Wild Eyes~

    1. Although, mountain lion live around The Holler, and I see their tracks, I have never actually seen a mountain lion in the wild because they are so incredibly elusive. Seeing them up close was truly an amazing experience

  1. What a handsome creature! We once lived in Big Bear City when Bill was working on building new roads in “wilderness areas.” We loved it there but have no recollection of a zoo. That was eons ago however.

  2. You took some impressive photos of the beautiful creature, Cindy. I hope they end up having a wonderful natural life. I’m very happy about The Big Bear Department of Parks and Recreation.

    1. Their rescue and rehabilitation results are impressive, as well as the animals they keep for life as there are no other options. They have this amazing white Asian Deer I will post photos of, who was found abandoned on a roof in Beverly Hills.

    1. I had to shoot through chain link and think scratched plexiglass. I could have altered the photos to get rid of the blur, but decided not to because these animals are not wild and free. If they were, I would never have gotten these photos.

    1. We have these magnificent creatures roaming the hills and I have never seen one. Although, at my former home, one walked down the middle of the street in the middle of the day, but I wasn’t there!!! It sure got the neighbors excited though!

  3. So nice to read of these zoo sanctuaries and the community recreation departments that operate them. We have one similar in Folsom, near Sacramento, with injured and abandoned native animals and birds. One of my university classes toured it last fall and were so impressed with the facilities. Beautiful photos, Cindy! I was still learning my camera so my images weren’t great!

  4. Timothy Price

    Beautiful mountain lions. We have Wildlife West Nature Park and Rescued Wildlife Zoo east of Albuquerque that serves a similar function.

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  7. What a beautiful big kitty. I understand that, out of all the big cats, only Snow Leopards can actually purr like house cats. I have a 20lbs orange Hemingway with thumbs. He is a mess.

    1. Is it possible that your Garfield is eating too much pizza???? Lucky feline. Or maybe he is just a big bold marmalade bunch of joy! There are two snow leopards at The Alpine Rescue. I think one was blind. They just rested on the roof of their enclosure, truly looking unperturbed, like they were on the top of world. They seemed the least confined of all the animals.

      1. He is my rescue kitty. The people that had him before me, I’d like to slap. Seven cats in the house with one problem cat. They favored the problem cat & it wreaked havoc on the other cats. Instead of addressing the issue, they started giving away the other cats. My Oliver is a big baby & wound up with a damaged ear & fear problems. He was already 20lbs when I got him. And, I don’t feed him cheap food, either. He gets herbal supplements & locally sourced simple treats. I would never poison him with mainstream garbage. He is totally rotten! ❤

        I would love to see a big cat in person. I am in awe.

      1. Cats kill for fun but its their instinct. Human (westernre, anyway) usually don’t need to. I had a hunter follow me on instagram the other day. I was horrified at all their photos of dead deer and guns. I am a animal lover and vegetarian. Actually I just realised it probably explains the nightmares I had last night!! I blocked them.

        1. Some domestic cats kill for fun. People are far more deadly than any wild animal. Herbert, our cat, refuses to kill anything. He just paws bugs and frogs and lizards with no claws out, until we rescue them, and he seems relieved, almost like he doesn’t know what else to do with them! He actually carries frogs into the house in his mouth without hurting them, and then looks at them, seemingly dumbfounded. I have heard other people talk about their cats doing this. I think you are on the right track, blocking negativity, protecting your sensitivity, and creating your beautiful, life affirming art. We need a whole bunch more people like you on this planet <3

          1. I have two cats, Hattie who has never caught or killed a thing in her life. The other Bingo will kill rats and mice although he only has one tooth. When I say fun I mean instinct. Bingo isn’t hungry and he cant eat the things he kills he just enjoys hunting and is a practiced killer. I’ve seen him do it and it’s pretty impressive (if you are not a fan of rats and mice). As for violence in humans, truama, testosterone and lack of empathy all have a role to play. I hate violence or cruelty to either animals or humans. Thank you for the discussion, Cindy.

  8. It might be because that my subconscious says this is a predator that shapes my thinking to see – I do not messing around…

    I am glad to hear this is the place to help injured wild animals and eventual they can have their freedom back (if they can survive on their own). This is great!

    1. Yes, our subconscious is wired to perceive threat before we are even aware of it. It helped our species survive. My reaction to looking into the eyes of a creature like this in the wild would be far different than in captivity. The lion’s look seems to be saying that! Thank you for caring about them despite their threatening appearance.

      1. Even though I am scared of them so badly (e.g. snakes are good closely creatures that I often run across), I do care for them (but still well aware to make sure that I stay clear of their way as much as I can).

  9. I see a yearning, too, Cindy, maybe to eat the photographer, lol. Only joking, but I do see a gazing beyond the barrier look in those eyes. Nice that they will have more room soon and that do many are released back into the wild. Beautiful photographs.

    1. I definitely notice that wild animals both in the wild and in captivity look differently at me when I have a camera plastered permanently to my face. They tend to look directly into the lens. It is almost as if they see it as an unusual eye. Of course, maybe they are just thinking, I want to eat her, but I am not sure about the camera!!!

  10. A beautiful animal – soon set free, I hope. Great shots. Sounds like a good organization – much needed. Thank you for posting and giving a link!

  11. Sehr eindrucksvolle Tiere! Das was ihnen hier am ehesten nahekommt ist der etwas kleinere und viel leichtere Eurasian Lynx, der Luchs, von dem es nach den Angaben der zuständigen Bundesangentur in Deutschland momentan ganze 77 freilebende Exemplare (z.B. im Harz, im Bayerischen Wald und Schwarzwald) gibt.

    1. Ich wusste nicht, dass es in Deutschland Luchs gibt. Sie sind wunderschöne Kreaturen und es ist so wichtig, sie zu schützen. Es gibt so wenige von ihnen! Danke, dass du mich erzogen hast!

  12. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord Blog Magazine and commented:
    Always a special field trip when you go over to Cindy Knoke’s blog and today is no exception… I bet when this big cat purrs, you can hear for miles..Big Bear Alpine Zoo is a rescue and rehabilitation facility that provides injured, orphaned and imprinted wild animals a safe haven, either temporarily as they heal, or permanently if they are unable to survive in the wild. 90% of the animals brought to the facility are released back into the wild. Do head over to read more and to see the other photographs…#recommended

  13. I had been to Big Bear several times and did not know that was there. I applaud them for stepping up and helping these magnificent creatures a place to heal and stay if necessary. Everything in the world just wants freedom. They have so little habitat left as the building continues. Thanks for sharing these photos and the information, Cindy.

  14. Bless the Zoo and the stake holders for the money. I love the photos, he staring right at you. No malice just checking each other out. They are so large and quite dangerous if you come up on one in the wild but that is where wild animals belong! In the wind. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Aw, I have a soft spot in my heart for big cats. I wish I could hug them. These pictures are beautiful––those eyes. Thank God for places like this. <3

  16. I love mountain lions/cougars/panthers. The Department of Natural Resources here in Georgia says we don’t have them in the wild here anymore, but we do. I saw one behind our house and watched it come down the hill through the woods. Many of our neighbors have seen them, too.

    1. Oh how absolutely thrilling!!! I would so love to see one and I am so happy you have one. It reminds of the lone wolf that was in Northern California. I felt sorry for his lonely life, but mountain lions require 100 square miles of territory each, so it is likely your lion has a friend. How wonderful!

    1. “Only in freedom are they are in the right place.” I so agree with you. It is sad to see any living creature in cages. I do see the kindness in their eyes as you do. They kill to eat and survive, unlike humans who do it for sport and idiocy.

      1. So true, Cindy! Here in Germany since some years there are a lot of TV-documentations, from the several zoo’s. The animals are presented like in a Sitcom. Even if i see this, i become very angry. Wish you a beautiful week. I think in your area its needless to wish you a snow free time. Lol Michael

  17. How wonderful that these critters have champions to protect and preserve them! Thank you, Cindy, for bringing us up close and personal with this beauty — its eyes are very soulful, don’t you think?!

  18. Whenever I see the wild eyes of the big cats, my response is that I respect their need to be wild. I was very relieved to read that 90% of the animals at The Big Bear Alpine Zoo are released back into the wild.

  19. Mountain Lions have always been one of my favourite of the big cats. There is something about them that makes me think more of domestic cats than wild one. I would never make the mistake of actually believing this, but they just have a softness behind those wild eyes!

  20. I am very much in favor of wild creatures living free, but unfortunately, people for whatever stupid reasons will shot or otherwise hunt them. In my area which is about an hour from Big Bear, we had some idiot shoot a wonderful huge eagle with a bow and arrow, and then another person shot a wild burro. Both creatures were saved, but the thing is that they are injured now and perhaps can no longer get their own food or perhaps they will not live as long. In some areas the specific animal types have been almost wiped out altogether. I believe we must have sanctuaries at the minimum. Yes, I am not in favor of zoos, but the preservation of the creatures is paramount for any of us. Thank you all very kindly.

    1. Sea turtle rescue is so important and these remarkable creatures are under such an awful onslaught. I see them sometimes in the ocean in my travels and it is always such a thrill!

      1. One season I got the honor of seeing a mom lay her eggs and then later in the summer I saw a nest of babies erupt!! Fascinating stuff 😉 Something I will never forget.

        Thanks Cindy! <3

  21. What a gorgeous creature! Those eyes are so expressive. We had a rescue dog for many years. These organizations do such good work. I’m glad you’re supporting them.

  22. My first reaction to the first photo was “Whoa, that is a big kitty!” It is always good to know that when some humans interfere in a bad way … that some step up and do all they can to correct the wrong done. A great set of images!

    Now about what that cat is thinking ……. “I bet that one with the camera would taste good ….” LOL. In reality it’s likely thinking “Man, I would like to get out of here and find a nice peaceful and quiet place!” I think that from house cats up to the big ones that they like to show us that nonchalant attitude just to make us wondering about just what they are thinking about!

    Of course, I bet the folks that work with them all the time do get a good feel for what they are thinking.

    1. “Man, I would like to get out of here and find a nice peaceful and quiet place!”
      You are a perceptive person, and this summarizes beautifully, what we humans, and those lions want.

  23. What wonderful creatures, and [though ‘zoos’ as opposed to rehab centres like this are controversial and the word is ‘freighted’…] so great to think they will be released into the wild in due course…

  24. I have a weakness for cats. One of my volunteer gigs is socializing and showing house cats for adoption so I’ve worked with thousands over the last few years. This one wants to know what you’re up to (are you a threat? are you bringing food? let me out?), is listening to things off to the side you didn’t even notice, and is slightly bored. Handsome cat. Hopefully, they can find a good wild place for him/her.

    1. Oh, no. Not at all. These are very intimidating creatures. Excited for your cruise. Sorry I didn’t respond promptly to your email. The recent storms took out our wifi tower.

  25. I got chills looking at your photos, Cindy. These are extraordinary. What a gorgeous animal. I’ve always been intrigued by wildcats. I’m happy to hear of any organization doing animal rescue.

  26. I don’t know what it is about your photography that has something mesmerizing about it. Obviously, I’m not the only one who thinks that. Cheers and very happy belated New Year, Cindy! xx

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  28. Great shots Cindy! Cougars are the only animal I haven’t seen and photographed. Vancouver island has the greatest population of Cougars on this earth and I have never ran across a single one.
    Why do they keep this one in there anyways?

    1. “Vancouver island has the greatest population of Cougars on this earth and I have never ran across a single one.”
      I had no idea!!! I was always getting more careful there when I came upon tons of fresh bear scat, I wasn’t factoring in mountain lions, laughing.
      California had a bunch too when I was a kid, but I would only see their cached deer kills, always knowing they were watching me, while I could not even see them.
      They are impressive, much like birds, in that are good at evading humans.
      A juvenile just attacked a biker in Colorado. He strangled it by hand.

      1. this article is not totally accurate Cindy.I just noticed that it says he threw the Leopard over his shoulder and walked back to camp.He did not do that.The Leopard was brought back to camp by other men from the camp and put on the bed near him.

  29. This seems to be more like an animal hospital than a zoo. They say that 90% of all the animals brought to them for rehabilitation are successfully released back into their native environment. That is good to hear.

    Excellent pictures, as usual, Cindy.

  30. Bonjour ou bonsoir mon amie et belle CINDY

    Je regarde le ciel et je pense tout en m’évadant
    Et je m’envole dans le plus grand silence
    Voir un monde meilleur sans guerre ou tout le monde se donne la main
    Voir toutes les personnes du monde ce sourire, sans aucun ne soit être déçu
    Des jours à ma fenêtre
    Je regarde les enfants courir,sauter,s’amuser
    sans que la maladie viennent les toucher
    Je regarde aussi les couples
    Ou l’amour de deux personnes sans qu’elles soient jugées
    ne peuvent se mentir
    Aimer toujours aimer quoi de plus beau
    Sans le dire on peux le démontrer par la parole ,par un cadeau autres
    Sur ces mots
    Je passe te souhaiter une bonne journée ou fin de soirée
    Gros bisous

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  32. I lived in Big Bear for a very short time as I am physically unable to cope with the cold, but I remember that rescue sanctuary very well. It is a great location and the animals seem to be very well cared for. I love the wild creatures, especially wild donkeys. I very much keep up on those and occasionally go to Reche Canyon to see them. Last time I was up there, a bunch of them in different locations decided to cross the road, and I was so frightened that they would get hit. Yes, we now have a donkey sanctuary in this area thanks to Bob Barker, but there are still donkeys getting hit in the roads because there are no fences to keep them on one side or the other. They are actually very gentle (generally speaking) creatures. One time we pulled into an off-the-road area where there were a bunch of donkeys, and right away a mother, father, and their two children, a younger boy and an older girl donkey came to show off their children. They approached the car, and mom pushed the little boy up to the car. I petted his face gently and then she pushed the older little girl up to us, and I petted her face, and then they looked kindly at us and turned about and went their way. If I ever had the opportunity and a good supportive piece of land, I would have a couple of them in my yard. They are quite good at being good guard animals too. They will bray loudly if someone approaches their property when they live in a specific area. I knew people in Deming, New Mexico who had a ranch, and the donkeys lived there. If anyone came near the property, they would bray loudly, especially at night. Geese too are good that way.
    Thank you for the lovely post.

    1. I have wanted donkeys for eons. We have plenty of room for them at The Holler and they are wonderful at chasing off coyotes. I love their temperaments too. Your story about the wild donkey family introducing their children to you is quite moving. Wild animals are often inaptly named aren’t they. Maybe humans are actually the wilder ones in the final analysis. I hope you get some donkeys <3 <3

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