[Article by Melissa Grant, pet trainer/owner of Miss Lola’s Academy for Wayward Dogs and animal lover]
I’m an animal person – there is no doubt. Admittedly, I probably won’t coo over your child, but if you have a critter I’ll want to say hello.
When I first moved to the valley back in 2006 I saw a man in a local restaurant who had what appeared to be a baby Kangaroo in a cloth pouch. We were quickly seated and he – and whatever it was – disappeared. BUT, I never forgot it and always wondered what the creature in the pouch actually was.
Years later I learned about the Fall City Wallaby Ranch and knew I had to go.
I had almost forgotten about the ranch, but someone re-ignited my interest mentioning it on a local hikers and climbers group. I asked my friend Cindi if her twin boys would like to go (animals are even MORE fun with friends) and made arrangements with Rex Paperd, the owner, to see his place.
Rex was frank with me on the phone. He didn’t really want an article written. The Facebook post I saw was apparently seen by hundreds of others and he had more business than he knew what to do with lately. He did eventually relent and we set off on one of the only sunny days in recent memory to see the ranch.
Not knowing what to expect, we mistakenly first went to the wrong address and were greeted a little gruffly by a man who directed us to the next driveway…oops. We found the right spot and were treated to a beautiful hillside view of the Snoqualmie Valley, river, golf course and the private airfield. Shortly that same man – who I now know to be Rex – came down the hill and ushered us and a family clearly on vacation into his barn.
I’ll admit it, after our initial introduction I was now wondering how all this was going to go. Rex was now talking about taxes and I thought “Oh crud. I brought two ten-year old’s?” But the tone suddenly changed and it quickly became clear that not only was Rex passionate about his animals, but a wealth of information when it came to Wallabies and Kangaroos.
Their first wallaby was Vicky – short for Victoria’s Secret – purchased as a pet for their teenaged son. She eventually paved the way for more wallabies and three red kangaroos. Apparently macropods – the scientific name for wallabies and kangaroos – are like potato chips and one is never enough. Today their troop consists of wallabies Victoria Secret, Velvi, Victory and Apollo in one pen and Valencia, Vanilla Bean, Vista (wallabies), Jasper, Rocky and Juno (kangaroos) in another. They also have new little Atlas in the pouch.
We got a crash course in everything macropod. Most interesting to me were their breeding facts: Born after a very short gestational period of 28 to 35 days, the tiny partially developed babies must climb straight up mom’s tummy to her pouch, where they stay for about five months. During this time mom will breed again. The resulting blastocyst will develop for a time and then get turned off by Embryonic diapause until mom is ready for another baby.
Essentially mom can choose to have that baby, or not, for a period of up to two years! Under normal circumstances the decrease in lactation will trigger the blastocyst to develop again, but if food is in short supply or the troop numbers too large, the baby-to-be waits in suspended animation for the right time.
Wow. Like I said, a wealth of knowledge in all things wallaby and kangaroo.
For more facts see their website or watch the Kangaroo King on YouTube where you can also see their pouch pictures featured prominently. The filmmaker – Big Bear Entertainment from Brisbane Australia – was filming for National Geographic at the time. They contacted the ranch on behalf of National Geographic after seeing their photography in Lynda Stakers Australian Kangaroo Medical Manual published in 2014.
After about a half hour we went out to see first the wallabies in a fenced pasture. The only warning we got was to please not run or chase the animals. These animals, he explained, are prey animals and will react to a perceived threat by running away. He told a funny story about his 7-foot-tall 200-pound Red Kangaroo Jaspar fleeing from a house cat. Huh? I had always heard these animals were dangerous… had even seen a YouTube video of one seemingly attacking a dog. Nonsense said Rex as we entered the pen.
Ohmygosh, who knew wallabies were so sweet! And soft! With long eyelashes! And there is a BABY! Gah, and there I go adding another “favorite” animal to my ever-growing list.
We spent a lot of petting them and handing them cashews before entering yet another fenced area with three lounging red kangaroos. Again, soft like bunnies with the kindest eyes – and I fell in love.
Rex’s devotion to his animals was clear and it was also clear they returned his affection. He was allowed to hold a baby wallaby while mom looked on, relaxed and even got a look at a baby newly emerging from the pouch.
You can buy one of his “babies” but be prepared to be thoroughly vetted. He doesn’t allow just anyone to be a surrogate parent. They require space, time and aren’t cheap. And they’re probably best left to folks like Rex.
You can, however, take a tour. Groups of five are $75.00. Larger groups are $15.00 each or hire one for your classroom or private party.
I highly recommend the tour. It’s the perfect thing to do on a sunny day in the Snoqualmie Valley. Oh, and remember this one thing if you go: a kangaroo’s tail is not for balance but to help propel them forward when upright. Trust me, you’ll need that tidbit…
Enjoy some photos below.