Going to the Baa-Baa Shop

The temperature is rising in Hampton Roads, which can only mean one thing for our woolly friends at the Zoo Farm: it’s time for their annual haircut.


It is important for sheep, alpacas and other animals with thick wool to be sheared before warmer weather kicks in to prevent overheating. Wool acts as an excellent insulator to keep the sheep and alpacas warmer in the cold, especially when temperatures drop below freezing. While these species can handle colder climates, the sheep and alpacas at the Virginia Zoo always have the option to be inside their heated barn if they’re feeling chilly.

Once the weather starts warming up, it’s time to shed those wooly coats and the Virginia Zoo makes the call to the shearers. Both the sheep and alpacas were visited by Southern Grit Shearing Services through the Rockin’ Alpaca Suri Ranch in April. The ranch is in Meherrin, Virginia and the shearing team – based out of North Carolina –  travel throughout Virginia, North Carolina and other nearby states to provide shearing services. This is the second year they have sheared for the zoo.


The shearers provided all of their own equipment and with the help of Zoo Keepers, sheared the sheep and alpacas in about an hour and a half. The sheep – Alvin and Simon – were sheared first, followed by the alpacas – Calico, Hermione and Troika. The shearing process is similar to how humans shave their heads. The animals are already used to allowing Zoo Keepers and Vet staff to handle them for other husbandry needs that help keep them healthy, such as hoof trims and body exams. Once sheared, the alpacas and the sheep are much more comfortable and ready to handle the warm, humid days of spring and summer here in Norfolk.

Several bags of sheared wool were collected and will be used around the Zoo as enrichment for other animals. With its unusual smell and texture, wool can be very enriching and interesting for the other animals at the Zoo. Animals such as the otters, tigers and lions may roll around in the wool and even mark it with their own scent. Wool is also given to many of the birds housed at the Zoo for them to use as nesting material!

The alpacas and sheep are on exhibit in the ZooFarm. Even though they look a little different now, we can ensure their shorter wool is better for them as we soon reach temperatures well into the 80°s and 90°s. Stop by and pay them a visit during your next trip to the Zoo!