The last of about 175 imperiled alpacas that are being removed from a farm near Falls City, Ore., are arriving this week at Oregon State University as part of a continuing rescue operation to help care for and save the lives of these animals.
Transport began late last week but only 54 got through, and operations had to be suspended due to the heavy winter storm, a traffic accident and difficult travel conditions. A team of doctors and veterinary students at OSU will now work with the incoming animals to assess their health, do necessary procedures, improve their nutritional status and aid their recovery.
Owners of the ranch that had housed the alpacas are facing legal charges in Polk County. Meanwhile, the College of Veterinary Medicine has volunteered its facilities to help continue the rescue operation that was begun by the Polk County Sheriff’s Department and Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue volunteers.
Ultimately, all of the animals will be made available for adoption, officials said.
“The OSU College of Veterinary Medicine is one of the few agencies in Oregon that has the ability and expertise to manage an operation of this size,” said Helen Diggs, a professor of veterinary medicine and director of the OSU Laboratory Animal Resources Center. “The Research Office at OSU has also made it clear that we will do what we can to help with this difficult situation.”
Although travel is still difficult, officials hope that most of the remaining alpacas will arrive early this week at the Research Animal Isolation Laboratory, one of the campus facilities large enough to handle so many animals at once. Some with special needs are also being treated in the large animal hospital in Magruder Hall on the OSU campus.
“Many of these animals are very thin and we’ve been told that a substantial number have already died,” said Chris Cebra, a professor of large animal internal medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and an expert in the treatment of camelids such as llamas and alpacas.
“From what we’ve seen, we’ll be dealing with malnutrition, heavy parasite loads, some pregnant animals, newborns, and various health conditions,” Cebra said. “We’ll continue to feed the animals, assess and treat medical conditions, check vaccination status, and generally improve their quality of life and suitability for a new home.”
Given the unusually large influx of animals at one time, a number of supervised veterinary students will also work in the rescue operation, allowing them a substantial amount of hands-on training while helping veterinary doctors more quickly and effectively give the entire herd the treatment it needs.
Once the alpacas recover their health, adoption will be possible from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, which is working with Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue to identify suitable placements. Inquiries for adopting one or more of the animals may be directed to either the Polk County Sheriff’s Office or Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue, at http://www.crosscreekalpacarescue.org/.
Photo: Gary Kaufman