Owners distressed by killing of alpaca
CINCINNATI — Almost as comforting as the soft sweaters made from alpaca fleece is the affection that the llama-like animals bestow on their owners. Jeff Pergram’s alpaca Masterpiece would trail and nuzzle him.
So it was heartbreaking not only to Pergram but also to owners throughout the state when Masterpiece was stolen in January, beaten to death with a club, and dumped in a barn.
“I can’t imagine anyone looking into the gentle eyes of an alpaca and doing such a thing,’’ said Beth Kressin, an alpaca owner in Medina.
Two 17-year-old boys are charged with animal cruelty and other counts, and a 23-year-old woman is charged with complicity offenses. A judge ruled that one teen will be tried on the animal cruelty count in juvenile court and as an adult on the felony charges. A hearing on the other teen’s status is set for May 24.
There doesn’t appear to be a broader trend of attackers taking advantage of alpacas’ trusting nature, but the attack in Ohio has rippled through the US network of alpaca ranchers.
“This was tragic, but I think it is an isolated case,’’ said Jerry Miller, spokesman for the national Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association.
The attack is still discussed at alpaca shows, and many people have registered their distress on websites such as a Justice for Masterpiece page on Facebook.
Smaller but similar in appearance to llamas and to camels without the humps, alpacas are prized for their fleece, which is made into sweaters, rugs, blankets, even teddy bears. They are raised also for show. The fiber varies in price. It can bring $2 or more an ounce in the raw state, with finished products sometimes costing more than $1,000.
Prices for the animals vary according to fleece, heritage, and breeding characteristics. Some sell for $250 to $300, while others sell for thousands of dollars, said Jeff Bradford of the Ohio Alpaca Breeders Association.
Ohio leads the country in registered alpacas with 25,000. More than 150,000 alpacas are registered in the country, according to the national association.
Typical security measures to protect alpacas from coyotes, dogs, or mountain lions include 5-foot fences and guardian animals such as livestock dogs, llamas, or donkeys, Miller said.
Masterpiece’s owner did not have a high fence or animals to protect the few alpacas at his farm. Pergram has sold his other three alpacas partly because of the attack.