‘Troubled camel’ returns to Park City
July 3, 2007
About 10,000 years ago camels roamed Silver Creek where today there is just a smattering of camels in Northern Utah.
The newest dromedary in western Summit County is a camel named Clyde, who returned recently to his home in Silver Creek after spending time in Colorado, where he nearly killed a man in a confrontation about a month ago.
A fixture a decade ago in the Fourth of July parade in Park City, Clyde was sold by Charmian Wright when the veterinarian in Silver Creek sold her camel-trekking business, Park City Camel Ventures, in 2000.
"We had the first camel-trekking business in North America," explained Wright’s husband, Gordon Croissant.
Clyde was their best camel, he added.
He weighs nearly a ton but Clyde "was always the one who we put inexperienced riders on," Wright said.
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Sadly, Clyde faced death or spending the rest of his life in a zoo when he injured his previous handler in Colorado.
"We don’t know why. That’s how he ended up back with me," Wright said. "He has some kind of history that we don’t fully understand yet."
Rarely are camels aggressive toward people, she said, adding that "they are really wonderful animals and they have great temperaments."
"The last owner that had Clyde had an unexpected confrontation with him," Wright said. "Something happened in the last eight years that made him become dangerous."
Wright isn’t sure if the man mistreated the camel.
"We don’t want to give Clyde a chance to hurt anybody else," Wright said. "He’s a troubled camel."
Old World and New
Camels are generally classified into two groups: Old World and New World. New World camels include llamas and alpacas.
Clyde is a species of Old World camel called a dromedary. Dromedaries have one fatty hump on their back. The other species of Old World camels, called Bactrians, have two humps, Wright explained.
Water, however, is not stored in the humps the urban myth claims, she insisted.
"They’re supremely adaptable," Wright said. "They have very interesting minds and [camels] have quite complex emotional lives."
Camels are experts at hydrating themselves having evolved to withstand scorching desert heat, she said, adding that in countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, "camels are a way of life."
"They can even drink salt water if necessary," Wright said.
To conserve water, camels have a split lip for moisture to run from their noses into their mouths. Camels can also increase their body temperatures to avoid needing to perspire.
"They just get hotter and hotter," Wright said, adding that camels don’t begin to sweat until temperatures become extreme.
A camel can dehydrate over 25 percent of its body weight before it starts to suffer, she said.
Camels have a narrow profile so they can move their bodies relative to the sun "if they want to warm up or cool off," Wright added.
Conserving water means camels have extremely concentrated urine and can store water in their stomachs, Wright said.
"It is important that they conserve that reservoir," she said, adding that camels have tiny ears to prevent sand from blowing inside.
Camels evolved in America
A camel in the Snyderville Basin isn’t that unusual because camels evolved in North America, Wright said.
"Just like the horse, this is their native land," she said. "I don’t think they were that much different than Clyde."
Camels likely migrated to Asia via an ancient land bridge, according to Wright.
Meanwhile, Wright hopes what is bothering Clyde can be resolved.
"He was my best camel," she said, adding that Clyde, who is 19 years old, displayed no aggressive behavior while she owned him for nine years. "But more so than any other animal, camels have an understanding of what’s fair. If treated unfairly they resent it."
Maybe next year Clyde will march down Main Street in the Fourth of July parade in Park City where he once kneeled in front of float judges in Old Town.
"A lot of people knew him," Wright said, adding that about 3,000 Old World camels live in the United States. "We’d go by the Irish Camel and they’d all be cheering."
Clyde appeared in the film "Independence Day" and the television show "Touched by an Angel."
"I think he would be perfectly safe in the parade today," Wright said. "I’m just being extra cautious until I know him better."