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Giraffe’s unlikely migration includes couple’s backyard

Mon., June 29, 2009, midnight

John and Jane Schreiner are the type of pet owners who gladly travel cross-country for their newest exotic critter.

The latest addition to their family is Karson, a 26-day-old giraffe. He enjoys drinking milk and loves to scamper across the grass at the Schreiners’ south Spokane County home.

Last week, the couple drove across the country, paying “a large, large sum” for the giraffe, which was born at the Natural Bridge Zoo near Roanoke, Va. On Friday, they brought Karson home after a four-day return trip.

The goal, in about four months, is to move Karson to the 12,000-acre Schreiner Farms ranch across the Columbia River from The Dalles, Ore. There, the Schreiners have a menagerie that includes zebras, bison, camels and three adult giraffes.

“He may be the only giraffe ever to be raised as a pet in Spokane,” John Schreiner said.

The Schreiners’ Spokane County property has 13 fenced acres to protect their animals. Karson joins five wallaroos and two kangaroos.

The ranch, in Klickitat County, Wash., partly pays for itself through the breeding and sale of animals raised there. The biggest sellers to date have been wallaroos – a gentle mammal halfway in size between a wallaby and a kangaroo.

John and his brother Joe, who co-owns the ranch, have been successful title insurance operators, with two offices in Oregon and 13 in Washington.

Once down at the ranch, Karson’s job will be to breed with the female offspring of Bob, the Schreiners’ adult male giraffe.

Animal breeders say there are fewer than 350 giraffes in zoos and in private possession in the United States. John Schreiner estimates there are fewer than 20 giraffe breeders in the nation.

Karson can expect a life span of up to 30 years. He belongs to the reticulated giraffe subspecies that is native to Somalia, in eastern Africa.

As far as the Schreiners know, Spokane County has no ordinance stopping them from keeping Karson.

“He’s not a carnivore, which is the one concern the county and states are right to control people from raising,” said John Schreiner. Giraffes are ruminants, eating leaves and grain, he said.

“I can’t see any reason we can’t keep him. He’s intelligent, gentle and a wonderful creature,” he said.

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