Pa. farm offers an exotic touch

July 05, 1998

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer


Winkler zooBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

WARFORDSBURG, Pa. - Baby bobcats took turns nursing from a bottle offered by Myla Winkler while a serval paced around its pen a few feet away, stopping occasionally to watch.

"This is her first day out," Winkler said of the 9-month-old serval, a large spotted cat normally found in Africa and Asia. Patagonian cavies, emus, muntjacs, wallabies and peacocks lounged in nearby fields and pens, enjoying the view from the Mountainview Mini Animal Zoo.

It started with a calf and a pair of goats that people passing by would see and stop to pet. The menagerie of John and Myla Winkler has since grown to 40 species from the domestic to the exotic.


Last month the Fulton County, Pa., couple opened a petting zoo at their 36-acre farm. John said they did it, in part, "because there's nothing for kids to do around here."

"She's probably got a joey in her pouch," John said of one wallaby they recently purchased. The wallaby is a miniature variety of kangaroo, a member of the marsupial family.

Like calves for cows, or kids for goats, joey is the term used for a young wallabie. Leaning up against a fence, John said the mating pair cost $1,700.

Leading an alpaca named Christopher by a halter, Myla said these South American relatives of the camel run $15,000 to $60,000 apiece.

"Huh," was the response that elicited from Christopher.

As if on cue, Christopher knelt down and rolled on the ground when Myla asked him what happened every time she brushed his fluffy coat.

The price of exotic animals is subject to wild swings. The meat and leather of emus, a large flightless bird from New Zealand, commanded a high price a few years ago, but the bottom dropped out of the market.

"One time they were $1,500 a pair. Now they're down to $18 apiece," Myla said. One emu preened a companion, perhaps thankful that it was more valuable as a pet than a pair of boots.

"This is Mexico's raccoon," John said of a baby coatimundi clinging to his wife's shoulder. The size of a kitten, it has formidable claws and a long snout.

A few families passed through the compound Sunday afternoon and barnyard animals were as popular with children as the exotics.

"Kids want to go and feed the goats and sheep. That's what this is all about," said John, a construction contractor by day.

Open every day but Wednesday, the zoo has yet to become a moneymaker. Donations from visitors go to veterinary care and feed for the animals, John said.

Although many species are native to other continents, John said most are domestically bred and purchased at animal auctions around the country. The wallabies, for example, came from Texas, not Australia.

He said there are strict regulations for the care of the animals and frequent inspections by federal and state agencies. Nevertheless, the couple wants to expand the menagerie.

John said he'd like a pair of gray kangaroos, which grow as big as men. Myla said she wants a camel, although they cost plenty to feed.

"We don't want to get anything unless you can pet it and they're child-safe," John said. Raising the animals from infancy, he thinks most are child-proof.

The couple wants to attract drivers off Interstate 70. John said signs will go up next spring.

They plan to put in restrooms and offer refreshments in the future.

The petting zoo is near Exit 32 off I-70, on Locust Grove off Old Route 126 in Brush Creek Township.

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