Is there anything cuter than baby animals? It’s one of the things I love best about springtime, and I’ve been known to drive into the countryside around Bend just to gawk at newborn calves in the fields.

Visit Bend’s marketing director admits she visits local feed stores just to admire baby chicks this time of year, so I know I’m not alone. Whether you’re looking to gaze at fuzzy babies in springtime, or just craving a general animal fix, here are six ways to see oodles of critters around Bend.

What the heck is a cria?

One of hundreds of alpacas at Crescent Moon Ranch.
One of hundreds of alpacas at Crescent Moon Ranch.

A cria is a baby alpaca, and you’ll see plenty of those right now at Crescent Moon Alpaca Ranch north of Bend. The ranch is one of the largest alpaca breeders in the United States, and they’ve had 20 new babies born since late January, with roughly 100 more expected between now and September.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, the ranch is open for members of the public to come out and enjoy a self-guided tour. There’s always someone on hand to point out new cria and help you get a closer look at alpacas of all ages, sizes, and colors.

There’s also a boutique on the grounds, where you can purchase alpaca wool products ranging from finger puppets to socks to sweaters.

It’s easy to wander on your own, and you’ll find directions to the ranch online. Another way to see it is by booking a Farm and Ranch Tour with The Well Traveled Fork. What’s that, you say?

Follow the fork!

The Well Traveled Fork offers culinary tours throughout Central Oregon, and Chef Bette Fraser has a passion for showing people where their food comes from. Her popular Farm & Ranch Tour is a great way to get out into the countryside and meet all kinds of critters, especially this time of year when all the baby animals are making their appearance.

This half-day tour includes transportation to a variety of area farms that let you get up close and personal with pigs, sheep, chickens, cows, alpacas, and more. You also get a look at an organic vegetable farm, plus Chef Bette’s awesome insights into the uniqueness of ranching and farming in the high desert environment.

The tour is $50 a person, and is perfect for anyone over age 5.

You otter check this out

Bend’s High Desert Museum is one of my favorite critter spotting places in Bend, and I love that they’re constantly bringing in new animal exhibits. A couple weeks ago, they introduced two new otters (Sandy and Rogue, age 3) into their large otter exhibit that previously housed one lone otter (Thomas, age 16).

Three happy otters living in harmony at the High Desert Museum!
Three happy otters living in harmony at the High Desert Museum!

The new guys are still settling in, but their presence has already perked things up both for the exhibit and for Thomas (who, admittedly, spent the first few days pretty ticked off about the change). The guys are all settling in now, and you can catch a special presentation about otters given each day at 2 p.m. by one of the museum’s naturalists.

Another relative newcomer at the museum is Vivi the bobcat. She arrived a little less than a year ago after the museum’s former bobcat, Ochoco, passed away. She seemed pretty shy during the early months in her new home, and I’ve enjoyed watching her come out of her shell in recent months. For a special presentation at the wild cat exhibit, drop by at 12:30 p.m. each day to hear a naturalist talk about Vivi and the museum’s lynx, Snowshoe.

For museum hours and admission rates, go here.

A little birdie told me you have free binoculars?

Longing to see a Belted Kingfisher or a bevy of Buffleheads? Spring is an excellent time to see our fine feathered friends in action, given the warming weather, bird nesting, and migration. The Old Mill District kicked things off earlier this month by offering free guided walks with a local birder from the East Cascades Audubon Society. Tours meet every other Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Ticket Mill, where you can check out binoculars and participate in an adventure. Tour dates for 2013 are 29, April 12, 26, May 10 and 24.

osprey dad brings goldfish
Daddy Osprey brings a tasty goldfish to his baby in the nest.

Prefer to do your birding alone? No problem! You can still borrow the binoculars at the Ticket Mill, along with nabbing a free birding guide to help guide you in your adventure. Scope out the illustrated list of birds native to the Bend area, then try to spot them along the Deschutes river.  For more information, go here or call or 541-312-0131.

Lions and tigers and peacocks, oh my!

Kitty

Book a Wild Cat Tour with The Bend Trolley and you’ll head out on an exciting expedition to a Central Oregon facility that houses a variety of wild cats and other animals. Learn about breeding, feeding, lifestyle, and the history of these gorgeous animals. You’ll enjoy the trip there and back in an original 1800s trolley with oak bench seating and open-air side panels (kept closed in colder months like this). The price is $45 per person, and requires a minimum of 10 people to book the tour.

Get along, little doggie

Ever fantasized about flying over snow on a majestic dog sled ride led by a team of skilled canines, many of whom competed in the Iditarod? The season is winding down for Oregon Trail of Dreams and their amazing dog sled rides up at Mt. Bachelor, but there’s still time to book your own adventure.

Oregon Trail of Dreams is operated and owned by Jerry Scdoris and his daughter Rachael Scdoris. Rachael is a world renowned athlete and had her first Iditarod finish in 2006. The dogs are beautiful creatures you’re invited to pet and scratch before and after your dog sled trip.

The cost is $85 for anyone over 80 pounds, and $40 for kids under 80 pounds. Advance reservations are required by calling 541-382-1709.

And for a look at what you’ll be experiencing, check out this awesome video:

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