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Shari Bond with Cross Creek and Polk Reserve Deputy Greg Redman help load an alpaca into a trailer on Feb. 11
February 18, 2014
CORVALLIS — The rescue operation was daunting, especially for those about to be rescued: the remainder of the herd of about 175 neglected alpacas being removed from Jocelyn’s Alpaca Ranch in Falls City.
The mission started Feb. 6, the first day of the winter blast that blanketed the Willamette Valley in a foot of snow, and after a weather delay, wrapped up last week. But first, rescuers — a volunteer contingent of local alpaca farmers and Washington-based Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue — were about to take on a big challenge in the form of seven untrained male alpacas.
Wary of the humans in their pen and reluctant to leave their herd, the Feb. 11 round up the “bad boys” was going to be interesting.
Working as a team, four volunteers were able to steer five of the boys to a waiting trailer without any major hiccups.
The two escapees were a different story. Shari Bond, with Cross Creek, and volunteer Randy Coleman had to resort to trickery to capture one: walking another alpaca along the fence line to distract him. When he walked up to greet the other young male alpaca, Bond grabbed him long enough to put a halter on him.
Volunteer Randy Coleman attempts to round up the last of a small group of untrained male alpacas on Feb. 11.
One down, one to go. Watching the last alpaca, skinny and scruffy, but feisty, dodge his would-be captors, Bond said: “He’s too smart for his own good.”
Indeed. His antics — while natural and understandable — were only delaying a trip to a much better place.
The worst part is over for the alpaca herd found sick and starving on the ranch in December, as they were moved to property owned by Oregon State University’s Department of Veterinary Medicine in Corvallis. OSU isn’t typically this involved in rescue operations, said OSU spokeswoman Lynn Smith-Gloria. However, after the first location to move the animals fell through, OSU decided to help.
“They were desperate and we had that pretty much unused barn and paddock area, so that’s why OSU stepped up,” Smith-Gloria said.
Two alpacas collected from the Falls City farm Feb. 11 peak over the top of their trailer as others are loaded.
Relocation of such a large herd was a multi-day operation — one that revealed just how bad conditions on the farm had gotten.
Nearly all the alpacas rescued were underweight — even after Polk County had taken over the feeding and care of the animals more than a month ago — and some suffered from eye and skin infections. A large portion of the adult alpacas were stunted, a sign of long-term malnourishment. Teeth and hoof problems were rampant. Many of the females were pregnant, as several males were found in the female pens at the ranch after the animals were forfeited to the county by Robert and Jocelyn Silver on Feb. 4.
Bond said Cross Creek has been involved in a number of smaller rescues – some in which the animals were in worse condition – but she has never seen anything like this.
Two baby alpacas were born to the herd removed from Jocelyn’s Alpaca Ranch last week. Both babies and their moms are being cared for at OSU’s animal hospital.
“We have done 15 animals before, but never anything of this magnitude. This is bad,” she said. “The one with 15 animals were probably as sick or sicker. We did lose a few. But this one, the extent of it is the worst.”
Fifty or more animals have died since the investigation into the farm began in early December, but only three in the days before and during the move. Two females gave birth to small, but healthy crias (baby alpacas).
Once they arrived at OSU, they were given basic physical exams, vaccinations and a lush pasture to graze while waiting to be adopted. The most vulnerable animals – undersized juveniles, new moms and babies, and those being treated for disease – are at OSU’s large animal hospital. All the males will be gelded in an effort to make them less aggressive and more adoptable.
“Most of them do not have papers and so they are not going to be breeding animals anyway, so it is better just to get them gelded,” Bond said.
Remarkably, it appears most of the animals will be ready for adoption soon.
Oregon State University vet students and Dr. Chris Cebra corral a group of alpacas in a pen at OSU in Corvallis.
Dr. Chris Cebra, a professor of large animal medicine at OSU, examined the alpacas and said some could be moved to a new home within the week.
“There are one or two that we identified that will require special care,” he said. “We haven’t identified any other serious issues than the degree of thinness. There are some of them, if it was the right environment, they could probably go right now.”
Cross Creek is screening candidates for adoptions and Bond is confident that each animal will be placed.
“We have more people who want them then we have animals,” she said Feb. 12 after the move was complete.
With more than enough homes to select from, Bond said the organization will screen possible adopters carefully.
“They (the alpacas) have already gone through enough,” she said.