KALISPELL — A yak is not a common livestock animal in Montana and neither is a camel -- yet at Spring Brook Yak Ranch you can find both.
One of the "stars" of the ranch is Carlos, a Bactrian camel, which is primarily bred to be in the Gobi Desert.
“It's one of the harshest environments on the planet and so he fits right in with where we live,” said Jim Watson, who owns Spring Brook with his wife Carol Bibler.
Watson inherited the yak ranch from his father-in-law and got Carlos during a trade for a yak heifer and bull from a ranch in Colorado. Seven years later the lovable -- and photogenic -- mammal has fans that stop by just to see him.
“He really does have his own fan club that people just come and go and bring him treats and say hello in love on him,” said Watson.
Watson is especially close to Carlos: "He's my pet. We like each other."
The ranch doesn’t just keep the seven-foot, camera-loving animal to themselves, so they partnered with Ruder Elementary School in Columbia Falls, giving tours of the ranch to students, but that has changed at least temporarily.
“This year of course with COVID we did no tours at all," said Christy Novak, the on-site "yak whisperer."
But Watson says that being able to connect with each of the animals on the farm from his yaks, to miniature horses, to Carlos, makes ranching livestock a little more special. “Agriculture is different when you’re not trying to make a living out of it,” said Watson.
Watson and Novak hope to be able to start up the education program again in May when hopefully it can be safe for the students to meet Carlos.
Visit the Spring Brook Yak Ranch website to learn more, including this overview:
We raise Tibetan Yak and Plains Bison. We also have horses, donkeys, a mule, goats, chickens and of course dogs and cats. The yak are raised primarily as high end breeding stock for other yak breeders. We also produce yak meat, pack animals and pasture pets. The bison are raised solely for meat. Most of our meat goes to a local market through private sales, health food stores and restaurants.