The first of 176 alpacas rescued from a Polk County farm are tentatively scheduled to be released for adoption Wednesday at Oregon State University.
Veterinarian Christopher Cebra, who is coordinating the recovery effort at OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, said a dozen to 40 alpacas may be released to new owners Wednesday. The Polk County sheriff’s office, which has legal custody of the animals, is handling the adoption with Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue, a Tenino, Wash., non-profit group.
“The ones in better condition are pretty stable and in the right environment will do very well,” said Cebra, an internationally-recognized camelid expert.
The alpacas arrived at OSU last week malnourished and with wide-ranging teeth, hoof and skin problems, including what Cebra called “some of most remarkable incisor issues I’ve ever seen.”
Alpacas have incisors only on the bottom, and press them against a hard upper lip pad to bite grass. The action tends to keep the incisors worn down to proper length, but many of the rescued alpacas had incisors that had grown past the lip pad and needed to be trimmed. Cebra said he isn’t sure if the teeth problems were caused by a lack of proper food or other reasons, such as stunted growth that affected the animals’ jaws in some fashion.
“I’ve worked with camelids for 20 years on several continents, and these are the worst incisors I’ve dealt with,” he said.
Adoption details such as cost were not available Tuesday. Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue can be contacted through its website, www.crosscreekalpacarescue.org.
Cebra said OSU hopes to be reimbursed for some of its costs, which include vaccines and sedatives used during procedures. The university is accepting donations to help pay for the alpacas’ care, he said.
Despite the cost and work, Cebra said the alpaca rescue was a “wonderful opportunity” for OSU veterinary students, who were pressed into emergency care duty and were “pitching in wherever we would let them.”
Students helped handle roughly 75 castrations of male alpacas. “In an average year we’ll do 25 camelid castrations (at the veterinary hospital), and this group has 75 right there,” Cebra said. “There are far more males available than the world needs, and intact males are problematic from a management standpoint.”
The most pressing medical issue now is that at least 16 of the females were diagnosed as pregnant and may give birth in the next couple weeks or months, Cebra said. Because breeding records on the animals were not kept, the timing of births is uncertain, he said.
Females that struggled for food during pregnancy may deliver babies with health problems, Cebra said. A baby born after the alpacas were transfered to OSU needed help breathing and didn’t feed well at first, but has since recovered, he said.