ARLINGTON — Many area residents might not realize that Arlington has its own kangaroo farm, but Jacob Lykken came all the way from Bothell to pay a second visit to its animals on March 17, along with several of his fellow Boy Scouts, and to say that he’d recommend taking a tour for yourself would be an understatement.
“It was awesome,” Lykken said. “Best time ever. I used to think the lemurs were monkeys, but I remembered from my last visit that they weren’t. I liked being able to pet the kangaroos and feed the llamas and see the different types of birds, and I even got to pet a tortoise.”
“It’s well worth the 45-minute drive,” said Olivia Nelson, the mother of another Scout in Lykken’s tour group that day.
“My kids have seen kangaroos before at the Woodland Park Zoo, but you couldn’t get nearly this close,” said fellow parent Justin Schmidt.
Ray and Joey Strom’s Outback Kangaroo Farm on State Route 530 in Arlington lets families get hands-on contact with many of their exotic animals because their collection started out simply as their own pets.
“We were at an ostrich convention 18 years ago when we met this one woman who had a baby joey,” Ray Strom said. “Of course, my wife’s name is Joey, so she fell in love with it and went home with it.”
“It felt like destiny, since people had always said to me, ‘Oh you know a baby kangaroo is named a joey too, right?’” Joey Strom said. “That was the start of finding a passion we never knew we had before. Kangaroos are so gentle and affectionate and loving that it hit us both the same way.”
Since moving from Edmonds to Arlington in 1998, the Strom’s menagerie has grown from a kangaroo, a dozen wallabies, herds of llamas and alpacas, and an assortment of ostriches, goats, chickens, parrots, dogs and cats to also include tortoises, pheasants, peacocks, rabbits and ring-tailed lemurs, not to mention more kangaroos, wallabies and wallaroos.
“We’ve sold wallabies, wallaroos and kangaroos for pets,” said Ray Strom, who encourages younger tour group members to hug his kangaroo jack, which Strom gets to stand up to person-height by holding food above his head. “It’s so much fun to see people smile when they get to touch and pet the animals. We only became a business because so many people stopped by wanting to see the animals. It was never anything we planned on doing. It just came about. We’ve been retired for years, so this is still a hobby for us. The admission fees just help us pay to feed and care for the animals.”
“Our visitors start smiling as soon as they first see the animals, and they’ll smile all the way through their tours,” Joey Strom said. “If we can help them forget about the troubles of the world for a while, it makes it all worthwhile.”
In order to sell and exhibit exotic animals, the Stroms’ Outback Kangaroo Farm is governed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and subjected to regular and random inspections to retain their license.
“Private people can’t own big cats, gators or primates,” Ray Strom said. “We got grandfathered in on the primates with our lemurs, and we’re affiliated with the Zoological Association of America. Our inspector is the same as the inspector for the Woodland Park Zoo.”
“When you go to a lot of zoos, they have these beautiful enclosures for the animals, but you can hardly see them sometimes,” Joey Strom said. “Here, kids get to interact with the animals, to pet them and feed them, which helps them learn to love them and care for them.”
The Outback Kangaroo Farm is located at 10030 State Route 530 in Arlington. For more information, log onto www.outbackkangaroofarm.com.