Beast bets

Who knew North Carolina was a wild kingdom of sorts?

Jennifer Beam Bower did: The Winston-Salem author's "Animal Adventures in North Carolina" (John F. Blair; $14.95) is a guide to 78 destinations where you can see anything from alpacas to wolfdogs.

Alpacas, of course, are the shaggy, llama-like critters native to the high country of Peru.

Wolfdogs are canines that genetically are of recent wolf heritage. Wolfdogs may be found in the wild in North Carolina, but that's not the case for tigers, chimps and the helmeted curassow - a South American bird that can weigh up to 8 pounds. The book, published this spring, tells you where in the state you can see these and other amazing creatures.

Bower, 40, gave us some of her best-bet picks: ALPACAS: "Definitely Caraway Alpaca Farm, which is normally open by appointment. And one day a year - an open house the third Saturday in November - you can see all the alpacas, plus meet people who care for them and spin their fiber. You can go into the research center and see products made from alpaca fiber and learn why it's different from other types. You can get up close and pet the alpacas and feed them from a little cup of treats."

1079 Jarvis Miller Road, Asheboro; by appointment; 336-629-6767;

BIRDS: "Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park has more than 1,500 birds. They do a lot of breeding there to help endangered species, and you'll see birds from all over the world."

1829 Lees Meadow Road, Scotland Neck; closed Mondays; 252-826-3186;

BISON AND BUFFALO: "Jambba's Ranch has a large herd of bison. You can get close to them; there are great photo opportunities."

5386 Tabor Church Road, Fayetteville; 910-484-4808;

FARM ANIMALS: "Sunny Slopes Farm is great, especially during Heritage Days (in May). They show animals that used to work the land, like draft horses. You can also see goats, donkeys, cattle and other types of horses. They'll take you on hayrides around the farm, which is beautiful. They'll stop when you come to different animals and tell you about them."

2994 Fairview Farm Road, Asheboro; by appointment only; 336-879-1606;

INSECTS: "The Natural Science Center of Greensboro has a whole area for bugs. Also, the Museum of Life + Science in Durham, which has an insectarium. You'll see so many that it's amazing. Raleigh's North Carolina Museum of Natural Science has an Arthropod Zoo with a lot of insects, as well."

4301 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro; 336-288-3769;

433 Murray Ave., Durham; 919-220-5429;

11 W. Jones St., Raleigh; 919-733-7450;

LLAMAS: "Go trekking. The one in the Piedmont closest to Charlotte is Bloomtown Acres / Four Ladies & Me Llama Trekking. Talk to the owners, who'll help design a hike for you. You can stop and have a picnic lunch, or just hike. (It's also a vineyard.) This all depends on your ability and desires."

4179 Divine Llama Lane, East Bend (northwest of Winston-Salem); treks offered most Saturdays-Sundays; 336-972-3986 ;

MINIATURE HORSES: "Banks Miniature Horse Farm, in Clayton (Johnston County). The best time to go is spring, when the babies are out there. They're so tiny it's amazing; they're just fuzzy things walking around."

145 Peele Road, Clayton; by appointment only; 919-553-7216;

MONKEYS: "Do you like chimps? Go to the N.C. Zoo, which has the largest number of them in the state. They're amazing to watch. Little Man's Zoo in Chadbourn has spider monkeys - about 30 onsite. It's one of the largest such troupes in any U.S. zoo."

4401 Zoo Parkway, Asheboro. 800-488-0444;

222 Faircloth Drive, Chadbourn; 910-654-5725;

SNAKES AND LIZARDS: "For snakes from all over the world, it's the Cape Fear Serpentarium in Wilmington. They have the deadliest of them there, and they're amazing to see. They also have lizards. Most all natural science centers - SciWorks (Winston-Salem), Discovery Place and others - have a lot of lizards on view."

20 Orange St., Wilmington; 910-762-1669;

400 W. Hanes Mill Road, Winston-Salem; closed Sunday; 336-767-6730;

301 N. Tryon St., Charlotte; 704-372-6261;

TIGERS: "There are two places - the Conservators' Center (in Mebane) and Carolina Tiger Rescue (in Pittsboro). Tiger World, near Charlotte (Rockwell), has a large number as well. Each is so different, but at all you have the opportunity to get within 4 or 5 feet of them. The first two places are open only by reservation. So Tiger World would be the easiest. You just show up."

Hughes Mill Road, Mebane (get directions on the website); by appointment only; 336-421-0883;

1940 Hanks Chapel Road, Pittsboro; 919-542-4684;

4400 Cook Road, Rockwell; closed Wednesday; 704-279-6363;

WOLFDOGS: "The place with the largest number would be Full Moon, which has about 80. You can walk around and see them up close. They're in enclosures, and you follow a guided trail through the farm. It's like a wolfdog sanctuary."

Black Mountain area; by appointment only; open house scheduled for Sept. 10; 828-664-9818;