When Marilyn Wentworth walks down her stairs outside, three alpacas instantly perk up and run to the gate of their enclosure to see her and hopefully get some food.
Wentworth owns alpacas at Phoenix Hill Farm, 8266 Rock Riffle Road. She has been taking care of alpacas for 10 years, and she refers to herself as their mom.
“(Wentworth) trained me for a while before I worked on my own,” Amanda Baughman, Wentworth’s farm hand, said. “They are her babies.”
Wentworth chose to have Suri alpacas, which are native to the Andes, because they are “cool” and “different.” She retired and wanted something fun to do with her time. Alpacas, each with their own distinct personalities, require hours of attention each day. Their fiber can be used for making warm clothes and rugs.
At her farm, Wentworth currently has 11 alpacas, six female and five male. They each have a name and respond to her calling for them.
“Rocko is the boss, and Nero gives him a hard time occasionally, but they agree that Rocko is the boss,” Wentworth said, laughing.
The other two males often “act like teenagers,” Wentworth said. They often fight and spit at each other. Some days, she said, their necks will be covered in each other’s spit. Wentworth playfully yells at them and plays mediator when the two are fighting.
“They just like to show off when we have people come,” Wentworth said.
Wentworth’s primary use for her alpacas are their fibers. Each year, each alpaca produces around five to 10 pounds of fiber that is then woven into yarn. After it is woven, Wentworth either knits it herself or sends it off to others.
“It’s fun to send the yarn to other people and see what they make of it,” she said.
Wentworth also travels around the area to different festivals and sells her own creations with the yarn. Socks are one of the most popular items sold.
Robin Ridenour, the owner of A & R Alpaca Farm in Williamsport, uses her alpacas for their fibers and as therapy animals. She owns more than 80 and also boards about 40 alpacas on her property.
“They are very calm in nature,” Ridenour said. “People at nursing homes enjoy petting an animal that is calm.”
Ridenour believes alpacas' calming demeanor can help calm other people and be therapeutic, but she does admit taking care of them is hard work.
Like Wentworth, Ridenour has set up protection for her alpacas because they are prey to coyotes and are not aggressive. Wentworth uses an electric fence, while Ridenour has guard dogs.
“They are such big chickens,” Wentworth said. “They weigh around 150 pounds, and they are afraid of everything.”
Ridenour and Wentworth were both in agreement that alpacas can show a lot of personality despite their generally calm nature.
“They all think it’s very cool to have a stick in their mouth,” Wentworth said, pointing at a female named Frieda with two sticks in her mouth. “(They) don’t ever want to take it out because it’s cool.”
Baughman thinks that all of Wentworth’s alpacas each have their own personalities based off of her last year working at the farm.
“You can’t change a personality, but you can work with it,” Wentworth said.