Alpacapalooza: 4-H Club focuses on rescued alpacas


All members of Alpaca 101 4-H Club learn to groom, care for, train and show with only rescued alpacas. The group meets in a covered arena in Yacolt owned by 4-H leader Kim Lynch.

“Our entire 4-H group is rescued alpacas,’’ said Holly Hines, president of Alpaca 101. “We buy pregnant moms who were abused, so we do get babies in but we are a rescue. We just got 10 babies in, so we have a full house.”

Currently, Alpaca 101 is working on fundraising projects to help the Oregon State University Animal Hospital that recently took in approximately 175 abused and malnourished alpacas and llamas, many of them pregnant.

Much of their time is spent educating the public about alpacas and the proper care of these animals that come from the camelid family, which is represented by the camel, llama, vicuñas and guanacos, as well. The smaller camelids hail from South America while the two types of camels popularly make their home in the desert regions of Asia.

Alpaca 101 members meet every other Sunday to practice jumping, working with obstacles and knot mastery to tie and secure their alpacas. They also train the animals not to kick which is part of the handler portion of their skill set.

The fiber (the term commonly used with other animals would be fur) of alpacas is known to be very soft. Occasionally, Alpaca 101 will come together as members only to work on craft activities with the fiber.

“We create all different types of projects,’’ Hines said. “You can turn them into clothing. We also sell it. Our adult leader actually sells the fiber from the animals that she owns. We dye the fiber. We can make it blue. We can make it pink.”

Alpacas are a family affair for Hines. Her older brother belonged to a 4-H Alpaca group for four years. At the time, the group included llamas and split apart due to the growth of membership. This is Hines’ first and last year, due to the fact that she’s at the maximum of the 8-18 year age range. Her younger sister, Dayna, is the vice president of the group and has been a member for four years. Holly and Dayna assist Lynch with the group meetings, help plan events and support Lynch’s training efforts with new members.

In her third year showing her alpaca, Coco, Dayna took home a Grand Champion ribbon in Fit and Show categories and a Reserve ribbon in every class she participated in at the 2013 Clark County Fair. They haven’t quite started practicing for this year yet, but she’s looking forward to seeing how they do. Coco receives treats of carrots and apples for his exceptional behavior though cherry Pop-Tarts are his favorite.

As with many 4-H clubs, Alpaca 101 competes with other alpaca groups around Washington and across the river in Portland. They will host a 4-H youth Jamboree at the Clark County Fairgrounds on May 10. According to Holly, this event is treated as a practice run for the fair and approached like a dress rehearsal.

The club alpacas are not able to be taken to nursing homes due to their size (although Lynch does have a therapy alpaca that visits nursing homes and hospitals), so Alpaca 101 takes advantage of outdoor events to educate people about proper care and the fun a person can have with these animals. They go on community walks, participate in area parades and last Halloween they were in full force at the Battle Ground Wilco’s costume contest.

“One of our members, Hope, actually took second when she dressed her alpaca as a skeleton,” Holly said. “She spray painted him (with washable paint) completely black with white bones on him and she was the grim reaper. It was really cute.”

Anyone interested in joining can contact 4-H leader Kim Lynch at (360) 600-3445 or email her at Connect with Alpaca 101 on Facebook by entering “Alpaca 101 - 4H Club’’ in the search engine.