Unusual animals find home on the range | ParkRecord.com

Unusual animals find home on the range

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Peoa resident Brandon Richins jokingly refers to it as the "More Money than Sense Ranch."

"Why else would you have all this stuff?" Richins quipped glancing over 30 acres of land north of Kamas that provides a private petting zoo with buffalo, steelhead fish and exotic fallow deer. "I can’t say it never will be developed. You wouldn’t think you’d dump that kind of money into something without the anticipation of doing something later."

The spotted Jacob sheep that live at River Valley Ranch "are supposedly the ones that Jesus herded," Richins said on an afternoon stroll around the property located at the corner of State Road 32 and Brown’s Canyon Road.

"Just to see somebody come in and do something like this with a piece of ground is amazing to me," the 32-year-old said. "I would hate to see it developed."

Most startling to passersby were perhaps four buffalo at the River Valley Ranch with beards covered with frost on Saturday. The constant hum of traffic is a reminder that urban sprawl is not far.

"Two of these buffalo were born right here in this field," Richins said. "They are very, very powerful. Compared to a cow, those things are strong."

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The patriarch bison sits at the top of the food chain at the ranch, Richins explained.

"He runs the show here," he joked.

A herd of fallow deer carefully surveying the ranch are wild, Richins said about the small species with its distinct antlers.

Fallow deer are usually easy to domesticate, but "you can’t catch them," Richins said.

Belted black Galloway cows at the ranch are called Oreos because of the distinct white stripe surrounding their midsection, he said.

"They’re just kind of a novelty animal," Richins said.

The River Valley Ranch was formed about six years ago by Vic Riches, of Los Altos, Calif.

"This is neat to see somebody come in who actually does have money and hasn’t put houses on it," said Richins, a native of Henefer who spoke about the importance of preserving open spaces in eastern Summit County.

Ranchers who work with Utah Open Lands can earn money by trading development rights for permanent conservation easements, Richins explained.

"The green groups and the ranchers are starting to come together," he said. "There will be houses all through here if somebody doesn’t do something. It’ll be sad."

Meanwhile, by telephone from California Riches said he doesn’t have immediate plans to sell or subdivide his ranch.

"I’m doing this because my grandkids and my children enjoy the animals and that’s how it all got started," Riches said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Still, he acknowledged the value of the land.

"I can’t believe what the prices are getting for property up there right now," Riches said. "It’s awfully nice to have a place to take your grandkids where they can see the animals that they would not ordinarily get a chance to see."

His eight grandkids live in California where "they don’t get a chance to get up close and personal with those kinds of animals very often."

"They love it," Riches said. "They love to feed the fish and they love the alpacas."

With the llamas reside different breeds of goats, sheep and horses.

"The little goats are so friendly and curious that when you go out there they come up to you," Riches said. "On a yearly basis there are probably 40 of 50 of our family that go up there with their kids."

Manmade ponds on the property contain steelhead, brown and rainbow trout, he added.

"At this point, we don’t have any plans to [sell the ranch,] we enjoy it too much," Riches said. "As my grandchildren grow up and as they don’t enjoy it so much anymore, we’d probably sell it to somebody and they would do whatever they wanted to do with it I guess."

"You never say ‘never,’" he said.