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By the Way: Exotic animals abroad in Bucks


The pandemic has delivered darkness to us and now an arrogant, obsessed little man too full of himself has set off a firestorm in Ukraine – killing, maiming, destroying.
But green shoots are pushing their way into the light and in the past couple of days I have met a camel named Ding-A-Ling and watched a mink fish in my pond. And then there are the wild ducks that visit and fly away and the herd of alpacas I drive past nearly every day. These wonderful creatures brighten my days, not removing the sadness but tempering it a little.
First, the camel. As I was driving on a country road, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a few people and an animal on a lawn. At first I thought it was a horse and then it loomed larger and I saw the hump. I couldn’t believe it. I drove past, turned around and went back. It was a camel. “What’s it doing there,” I asked. “Just visiting,” I was told.
Darn. Probably the first time I had left the house without my camera, I drove away. I had an appointment to keep.
Later I found out the camel is one of three owned by Peaceable Kingdom Petting Zoo. Visitors are not permitted at the farm but I had called ahead and the owners Charis and Brad Matey were kind enough to let me take a photo of Ding-A-Ling. Somehow it made me feel better that I could document the sighting – that there really was a camel in Upper Bucks.
They took the camel out of his pen for a private photo op. I have to admit I’ve never felt so small in my life. Even when he lowered his head, he towered over me – waaaay up there. Charis held tight to his lead and got him to lie down and get up again after he’d nibbled on a tiny patch of green.
The Mateys are registered traveling wildlife educators. They take their animals to the live Nativity scene in Dublin every year and they travel to events in the Philadelphia suburban counties as well as New Jersey Their programs range from individual birthday parties to community days, school activities, farm animal parties, exotic animal parties and corporate events.
Now, for the mink.

My husband called to me the other day, urgency in his voice, and I ran to the window in time to catch sight of a small bundle of fur racing to our pond. He, or she, sped across the snow, slid into the water, disappeared, emerged and raced back over the little hill. My husband said, “At first I thought it was a cat but it’s too sleek.”
A bit awestruck we remained at the window and suddenly the little creature appeared, repeated his first trip and then again and again and again. “Maybe it’s feeding its babies,” I suggested. We talked about what it might be – or not. Not a squirrel. Not a beaver. Certainly not a fox. We’d seen one of those a day earlier.
“It’s not a marten. Maybe it’s a fisher,” I said, not even recalling how I knew such creatures existed. Determined to find out, I called the state game commission and left a message.
Impatient, I turned to my friend, Sabra, my unofficial consultant on all things that scamper around the woods and live in ponds. She said she thought it was a mink because she had seen one on her property. We briefly talked about the starting of a coat, but that discussion ended in laughter.
Much to my surprise Tom Keller from the game commission called me the next day. I described our little adventure and he agreed what we had seen was most likely a mink, but it was a bit too early in the season for babies, he said.
And so, on to the alpacas. I usually stop the car when they’re out grazing. One guardian animal raises his head and watches warily but he doesn’t warn the others. We are friends – and it’s peaceful there as they munch away in the field. It’s also comforting and I feel blessed by the sweet little interlude.

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