Merino Flock Thriving after 25 Years in Alaska
December 1, 2017

The Merino sheep Karen Gardner and her husband shipped up from New York state in the early 1990s aren't just any sheep. The Gardner flock of purebred Merinos are known for their fine, soft wool, which is versatile enough to be used in everything from slinky silk to hefty blankets. The sheep were the first of their kind in Alaska when the animals arrived 25 years ago.

Today, there are pockets of Merino sheep around the state: in Delta Junction, Fairbanks, on the Kenai Peninsula. Originating in Spain in the 12th century, the animals are known for their hardiness and strong flocking instinct. Farmers here say they're well suited to the cold.

Still, keeping sheep in Alaska isn't easy. Long winters and short time for munching grass outside necessitate months of feed costs that Lower 48 producers don't face.

Producers here recently weathered what many viewed as a mortal threat to their cottage industry: a bid by a wild sheep group to remove goats and sheep from Alaska's "clean list" of pets that don't need permits.

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Source: Anchorage Daily News