CORVALLIS, Ore. — It wasn’t on the curriculum, but the rescue of 175 malnourished alpacas from a Polk County farm provided Oregon State University veterinary students with a “crash course” in emergency care.
As alpacas arrived at OSU in trailers hauled by volunteers, students were put to work trimming overgrown teeth, deworming, caring for hooves, castrating males and checking for pregnancies. One of the females gave birth shortly after arriving at OSU.
“It’s a sad situation, but a great opportunity for students to be able to help,” said Helen Diggs, director of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s teaching hospital. “They get a lot of experience fast — welcome to the real world.”
The alpacas, which are raised as novelty pets or for the luxurious fiber they produce, were removed from a Falls City farm after Polk County officials won a forfeiture order against the owners. A neighboring property owner first alerted the county sheriff’s office in 2012, according to the Associated Press.
County officials began feeding the animals in December after a veterinarian determined they were starving. At one point, up to 235 animals were crowded on about three acres and were so hungry they had stripped bark from trees, the AP reported.
Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue, based in Tenino, Wash., helped coordinate the removal to OSU’s Research Animal Isolation Laboratory on the southwest edge of campus. The property includes a large, fenced pasture and covered feeding stations. Staff at OSU brought in three llamas to guard the smaller alpacas from coyotes that live in the nearby woods.
The alpacas were “so frightfully thin” upon arrival, Diggs said. “We need to feed them up as much as possible.”
When the animals recover, perhaps in a couple weeks, they will placed for adoption.
“We are the way station,” Diggs said. “The best place for them is people’s backyards.”