Country World Archives 2001-2008

Variety of exotics ‘at home’ on Silver Wolf Ranch

By MONETTE TAYLOR | South Central Texas Edition

Silver Wolf Ranch foreman Vapsi Coronado tickles the nose of one of two tigers he had bottled fed and raised. The ranch takes in rescued animals and plans to open a zoo soon.
-- Staff photos by Carolyn Rost

Once you drive through the huge gates at Silver Wolf Ranch, just west of Seguin, you feel like you’ve entered the “Land of Oz!” Yes, there are lions and tigers … but no bears … (oh, my!) but, that is only the tip of the ranch!

Just over four years ago, ranch foreman and supervisor Vapsi Coronado was working as a jeweler in Los Angeles. Quite by accident, he became introduced to some of the family from Mexico who had purchased the ranch once known as “Buffalo Roam,” in South Central Texas.

After being invited to visit the Silver Wolf Ranch and work for several months, Coronado was offered the position he now holds at the almost 500-acre ranch.

According to Coronado, the family of owners, including Maria Castillo, just “love animals,” and have worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) since they purchased the property. They have rescued a number of the animals and nursed them back to health. Most of them available for sale to zoos, individuals, and those who lease their property for hunts, according to Coronado.

Driving through the ranch, the number of different animals present is almost mind-blowing; much less the fact that the various species seem to get along.

While the ranch is home to some “common” ranch animals, including beef breeds such as Texas Longhorns, Watusi, and Angus, and even some dairy cattle, there are also various breeds of deer, Yaks, American Bison or Buffalo, and white and brown elk.

The real eyebrow-raising surprises are when you see a couple of breeds of zebras, lions, tigers, cougars, jaguars, and even a giraffe “at home on the (ranch) range.”

A variety of animals are seen near one of five feeders that are filled, each day. Most of the animals are on a diet of pellets, hay, grass, oats, and wheat. At the ranch, the animals that have grown up together often socialize, especially in the feeding areas.
-- Staff photos by Carolyn Rost

On a recent visit to the ranch, a pair of Water Buffalo were seen wallowing comfortably in a pond. They seemed eager to check out, or at least “sniff out,” the visitors on the ranch. According to Coronado, the Water Buffalo can weigh up to 800 pounds, and the fact that their skin is more like a pig than a regular buffalo, demands that they cool off in the water, most of the time.

Then, Coronado drove all over the ranch until he located the white elk who was “hanging out” with a brown elk … each with huge antlers that were still in the process of losing their winter velvet.

Besides four-legged animals, the ranch is also home to some two-legged ones. Coronado said the ranch has around 100 emus, with females laying up to nine eggs at a time. (The males, rather than the females, sit on the eggs until they hatch.) The reason there are so many emus, Coronado explained that about 20 years ago, many people became caught up in the big “emu replacing beef” movement. Then, most quickly decided it wasn’t going to happen and had to find places for their ratites.

On another part of the ranch, there are several animals inside specially-built pens, including tigers and a giraffe. Several of the tigers seemed to be quite tame; especially the two that Coronado had bottle fed until they were large enough to feed themselves and survive in a pen. Coronado explained that the tigers grow to weigh between 250 to 300 pounds at maturity.

The male tiger of the group was not too happy to see visitors. He constantly growled and at one point, jumped at the fence to show off a mouth that looked as if it could bite off a human’s head in one chomp! The male’s paws looked, roughly, the size of a dinner plate.

Coronado believes that … at some time … the male was treated badly by humans, since those who have been raised on the ranch are much calmer.

The Silver Wolf Ranch offers so much more than the “average Texas ranch,” and there is still more to come. Work is underway to open a zoo that will be open to the public, in the near future.

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