Alpaca mania

By: Daniel Gotera Email
By: Daniel Gotera Email

FANNIN COUNTY, Tex. -- They are originally from the Andes Mountains in Peru, but over the past hundred years have spread out to all parts of the world including here in Texoma. We're talking about alpacas, an animal some might have heard of but that many don't know much about. One local woman has taken in this lovable creature, and she doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon.

Welcome to the Shaggy Chic Suri Ranch in Fannin County, a place where for the past five years one can find the largest number of alpacas in the state. Sharlene Parks is the one responsible for bringing them to their new home.

"I thought they were the cutest things I have ever seen and I love animals and I had to have some."

"I can’t imagine my life without these things...I just love them."

There are 67 alpacas on the Parks’ property. Most are Suri's, one of the two classes of alpacas. They come in all shapes and sizes from as small as nibbles, who parks nursed back to good health to as big a rare Grey Suri from Peru worth $72,000.

Parks says even though she and her husband have spent thousands of dollars on their alpaca operation, the reward has been just as plentiful.

"Alpaca is a fiber that is well at one time it was considered only for the Inca royalty and they were the only ones that were allowed to have garments made out of it."

The Suri's breed, whose fur is sheered off once a year without hurting the animals, is used to make a variety of items from purses to blankets, teddy bears and socks.

Parks says if taken care of properly alpaca fiber could last up to 100 years, but with the large number of animals spanning several acres comes security issues.

"Coyotes are another problem you could have, but we have good dogs in our pastures, livestock guardian dogs that do a great job."

Next week, Parks and her husband will take several of the alpacas to Fort Worth to compete against others from the state but her property is open all year round to visitors, and right now she is working on developing the property to do just that.

"We love to have visitors and we have people that come out frequently and then three hours later they leave, we just like people to feel at home here and spend time with the animals and just enjoy nature."

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  • by Larry Location: Grants Pass, Oregon on Feb 14, 2008 at 10:01 AM
    We have been in this business for 16 yrs and it's the best thing we've done. We never have had over 40 animals on our ranch due in part in getting new ranches started or helping established breeders improve their herd's genetics. There is an entire industry devoted on establishing a national herd which, for many future generations, produce the finest wool and apparel.If money can buy happiness, then the alpaca has certainly been the answer.
  • by Rhonda Location: Durant, Ok on Feb 14, 2008 at 07:02 AM
    I am looking on how to get a hold of Sharlene Parks about her alpacas. Please email me at and let me know. Thanks Rhonda
  • by Brigitte Location: Hutchinson on Feb 11, 2008 at 07:01 PM
    Apparantly the people that have posted their comments do not know the business at all. First of all, if you live in the country, you would know that coyotes will attack anything that moves, especially when they coyotes are in a pack. Second, we do not show a dislike of all canines. Great Pyrs are loving and gentle yet they are great protectors. This is the reason they are the best for Alpaca ranchers. Third, this is not a fad, Alpaca breeders have been around for numerous years. I know some ranchers that have had their business of over 10 years. Is this a fad? No. Last, this is a lucrative business and Mrs Parks is a wonderful person and cares a great deal for her animals. It is not right to place judgement on someone you do not know.
  • by ostritch rancher on Feb 11, 2008 at 02:10 PM
    Maybe I could interest you in some tall birds? I would have expected these folks to know more about their animals. The coyotes have much more to fear from the alpacas than the other way around. Some sheep ranchers have taken to using them and their llama cousins as guards for their less agressive livestock. They apparently show a marked dislike of canines of all kinds.
  • by taxpayer Location: tx on Feb 11, 2008 at 10:03 AM
    Reminds me of the emu fad of the 90's, everybody thought they were the next big thing (exotic meat) and they were selling for $5,000-$10,000 apiece... now nobody has them anymore. I wonder if alpacas are going the same way. If I was Mrs. Parks, though, I think I would be very uncomfortable with my name, the name of my business, and the value of a rare animal ($72,000) being posted online for potential thieves to target.
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