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Visit with alpacas on Whidbey Island

(Two alpacas enjoy lunch at Pronkin’ Pastures Alpaca Ranch. Rachel Belle, KIRO Radio)

Fact of the day: Washington state has the second highest alpaca population in the country.

According to the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association, there are 19,217 registered in our state. Context: most states hover around the four-digit mark.

So why are we so keen on these curious camelids? No one I spoke with can answer that question. But who cares! They’re adorable! And you can get up close and personal with a herd at Pronkin’ Pastures Alpaca Ranch in Greenbank on Whidbey Island.

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“They’re very gentle,” Pronkin’ Pastures owner LeeAnna Jorgenson said. “They are just calm, sweet animals. They’re very lovable, curious and interested but they’re also very cautious.”

Pronkin Pastures is the only alpaca ranch on the island still welcoming visitors. Jorgenson bought the land with her husband 14 years ago, hoping to raise some sort of livestock for food.

“A couple steers, maybe a pig or two,” Jorgenson said. “But my husband was really opposed to that idea. He didn’t want anything that was going to end up in the freezer. So, upon further investigation, we learned about alpacas. Alpacas are raised primarily for their fine fiber. The more we researched and learned about them, the more we liked them.”

After many classes and lots of learning from other alpaca ranchers, they now keep no more than 40 alpacas on their 10 acres of land. Jorgenson says alpacas haven’t been in the United States long, people only started importing them from Peru in the 1980s. She has a regular breeding program, welcoming two to six babies every year, since young alpacas provide the highest quality fleece.

Jorgenson opens up the farm to visitors every four to six weeks, free of charge. Or you can make an appointment, pay $5 a person, and have the opportunity to go inside the pen and hand feed them.

“Oddly enough we’ve done three different bachelorette parties,” Jorgenson said. “People come to the farm, they want to spend time visiting with the alpacas. Kind of a fun, different way to celebrate.”

Admittedly, I was a guest at one of those bachelorette parties and have since returned to spend time with these gentle, fluffy headed creatures.

“People always reach for the top of the head and that’s exactly what the alpacas hate,” Jorgenson said. “They’re not like dogs, so as tempting as it is to touch that cute little topknot, they really don’t like that. If people want to touch them, go for the shoulders or the side of their neck. Most of the time you’ll be able to touch them that way.”

For more information on a visit, click here.

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