Bernson's Corner: Wild animal sanctuary in northwest Ohio - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Bernson's Corner: Wild animal sanctuary in northwest Ohio

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It's a road trip to northwest Ohio for Bernson's Corner to a home that is not describe typically American. 

No, in fact, it's more African and Asian--a place Barry Bernson calls a one-man, do-it-yourself Animal Planet. 

So you're on U-S Highway 20 in northwest Ohio, and you think to yourself -- is that a tiger over there? 

Yes. It is.  Killer is just one resident of a unique sanctuary, owned and operated by Kenny Hetrick.   He has about 25 lions and tigers and bears. The sanctuary is also home to a bobcat, a lynx, a spotted leopard and a couple of timber wolves.

Hetrick says it takes nerve to handle the big cats, "If I go in there, he's afraid of me.  Anybody else goes in there, he'll come after them."  

Mr. Hetrick is a police officer and retired prizefighter who's turned his five acres into "where the wild things are." He says, "as a kitten, everybody wants a baby tiger.  Or a baby bear, whatever.  When they get big enough to scratch and bite, all of a sudden people lose interest in them.  That's when they call me." 

Hetrick explains, "I can only take so many of these animals, but I've been taking them for 30 years like this.  People call me and practically beg me to take their baby tigers, baby lions -- when I say 'baby,' I'm talking six months old." 

The 2000 movie "Gladiator" featured Russell Crowe's character wrestling with some of Mr. Hetrick's Siberian tigers.  "I can go in the cages with all these guys.  I'm not gonna say I've never been hurt; usually when I have, it's something I did wrong." 

Hetrick says his last hospital bill was $172,000. What happened? The grizzly bear attacked him.  It  snapped his leg. " I got five holes in the back of my leg and my hip that were three inches deep, and I had to have two surgeries," Hetrick says.  

I like tigers, I like the lions, even though the grizzly bears are extremely dangerous, I like them.  They're nice to me most of the time." 

So trespassers beware. Mr. Hetrick has a sign on his fence that reads 'beware of dog."  

It is also expensive feeding two dozen wild animals. Hetrick says, "right now, we're all out of horse meat.  Nothin's come in.  I had to buy chicken.  I had a guy just drop off 3,000 pounds -- and that was 500 and some dollars.  That don't last no time at all."  

Mr. Hetrick has a federal permit allowing him to keep all those wild animals -- which he says require being fed, a total of about one horse a day.   

At the age of 67, Kenny knows he can't go on forever doing this. And no one's volunteered to take over.  He gets contributions from local farmers, but with fewer farms in the area, the food supply is getting slim.  

From Stony Ridge Ohio -- Barry Bernson, Fox41 News.

 

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