BERRYVILLE — A baby kangaroo at Walmart? That’s something you don’t see every day.
Last month, local Facebook accounts lit up with a photo of a baby kangaroo lounging in a cloth pouch in the front seat of a car parked in front of a Winchester Walmart store. The animal’s caretaker, Jennifer Caton, caught wind of the viral post and chimed in to share the story of Roxy, a 1-year-old red kangaroo being fostered at her Bar C Ranch near Berryville.
Caton wrote on social media that Roxy is one of three kangaroos at Bar C Ranch. What she didn’t mention is that her 6-acre farm on Shepherds Mill Road is also home to a veritable menagerie of exotic animals — camels, porcupines, fainting goats, snakes, nilgai antelopes, a miniature horse, donkeys, even a four-horned Jacob sheep.
“It’s like having a school with kids,” Caton said recently at her Clarke County farm.
Bar C Ranch is a licensed petting zoo, but it is not open to the public. Instead, Caton and her husband, Will Caton, take their show on the road, allowing people to meet their exotic creatures at live nativity displays, birthday parties, fairs, educational events and so on. For people stuck at home during the pandemic, they also offer virtual, interactive visits with the animals through the website pettingzoom.com.
Roxy came to the Bar C about six months ago as a foster animal. Jennifer Caton had to bottle-feed her at all hours of the day and night and, as Roxy’s temporary mom, also had to provide a pouch for the baby marsupial to climb inside for safety, comfort and warmth.
Caton found a large cloth shoulder bag that was just right for Roxy. She now carries the kangaroo in the bag almost everywhere she goes, even when she’s shopping.
“We’re raising her for a zoo in Missouri,” Caton said, and Roxy will be returned there in another two months or so once she’s weaned from the bottle and able to fend for herself.
Caton carried Roxy from her house — yes, Roxy and the Catons sleep in the same bed — and took her to a large enclosure to play with the farm’s other two kangaroos, Roofus, 4, and Khloe, 2.
“They’re sweeties,” Caton said.
Roxy seemed more interested in hopping around than playing with her friends, so Roofus and Khloe hung out with their human guests. Both of the adult kangaroos were extremely inquisitive and affectionate, snuggling and nuzzling their two-legged visitors while occasionally trying to steal the camera that hung around the neck of a visiting photographer.
Khloe also tried to climb into the empty cloth pouch slung across Caton’s shoulder but quickly realized she had grown too large to fit.
“She totally didn’t care about the pouch for the longest time,” Caton said of Khloe, “and then we brought the baby home. All of a sudden, she wants back in the pouch again.”
The bond between Caton and the animals at Bar C Ranch is special. These are her babies, and they all run up to her as if she were their mother. She responds by smiling and greeting each of them by name.
Caton knows it will be a hard day when she sends Roxy back to Missouri — this isn’t her first go-’round as a foster parent to a wild animal — but she takes comfort in knowing the young kangaroo was well loved during her brief time at Bar C Ranch.
“It’s always tough sending them back, but you know they’re going to a good place and will be happy,” Caton said. “Kids grow up and leave home. It’s a part of life.”
For more information about Bar C Ranch and the animals who live there, visit barcranch.org.