Saving a Large Herd - Part 2

by Lynda Liptak, Llamas del Sol

After the recovery of 26 of the 34 llamas outside of Fairplay, Colorado, and a little recuperation from the long haul, I got a call from Kent Greentree who said he would like to recover the last llamas that had evaded us.  I had already been thinking about the all pure black female llama who I had danced with during the first rescue attempt and watched as she powerfully took control of her freedom when she charged by me.  She may make a wonderful pack llama with some kind treatment and trust work.   Also we heard from a family member of the rescue site that she just had a new cira (baby llama) only a couple of days old now – and I would love to have a cria!

Kent’s enthusiasm and the outreach he had done to get another volunteer was enough for me to agree to assist in this second adventure of llama rescuing.  And so much was invested in learning the “lay of the land” in the first rescue that I felt this next effort should go more smoothly.

Kent suggested I should keep the black mother and her cria and he had his eye on another mother/cria pair that were still on the mountain.  We also knew there was an orphan cria a few months old who was left behind because she became separated from her mother in the last rescue and she would need to be cared for to survive.  Another concern is since we knew there was a young bachelor herd of three males still there, in a short time, there would be a large herd of llamas roaming the area unprotected, starving in the winter, trespassing on public and private properties, and at risk of being shot, poisoned, or struck by vehicles.  The rest of herd needed to be rescued.

The question was, could we manage everything that needed to be done?  Would we have enough support and materials like trailers and panels?  It was a very long drive for us but if we could get there with enough panels, ample food to entice these wild llamas, and not get stuck in the snow or harsh condition, I knew three of us could do this.  We had one open weekend that would work for Kent and me.  We figured we needed about 12 large panels to build the corral and loading chute.  After much searching and struggle with a few offers and then strange cancellations, Kent finally had to take apart his corral and load up his panels onto his truck bed and lean them up over his cab since he was going to also pull a trailer.  Later we were to learn that Kent’s contact would bail on us but my husband, Frank Liptak was a good replacement.

Our first rescue was September 29 – October 1, 2018. I had surgery on October 23rd and was not allowed to run around for a couple of weeks but by mid November, I was able to safely go and round up some more wild llamas and on November 16th I headed up from Albuquerque separately - I had three llamas in my trailer transporting them northbound.  In trying to be the most efficient with scarce Southwest Llama Rescue resources, I also would deliver three llamas who had been “cruelty seizures” (which I had worked with all summer) to their newly adopted home!  This is always a happy occasion and the most enjoyable part of my volunteer work, but first, I would have a flat tire on the trailer around Wagon Mound, NM which was par for the course.   Later I got to show Frank where I got a flat tire during the first rescue and struggled with the spare on my truck right outside Southpark, CO, which turned out to be a sign that I should have replaced several tires before this trip.

My three-horse slant trailer was now ready for another rescue and I figured I could hold 6 llamas and Kent’s trailer could hold two llamas which was perfect for the 8 llamas we were saving.  But what would we do with the ram?  Did I forget to mention there was a ram in this story?  I thought the ram should be left there for the family to rehome (we were Southwest Llama Rescue after all) and we were already saving 34 llamas and a donkey!  But there were strong feelings for the ram by many folks.  Ram was bonded to the llamas and in a way was helpful in the first rescue.  He was tame, although a bit aggressive as he had rammed one of the rescuers.  Kent decided that he would take the ram and two llamas.  This proved a challenge with the trailer space that we had.

Upon arriving at the site just before dark, Kent and a family member were pushing a large round bale of hay into the designated corral area which was right along the roadside.  We were very relieved that hay got delivered finally. It snowed the night before so the llamas should be hungry.  A lot could be said about the trouble we had getting hay (similar to the panel debacle) but in the end our close partnership with a kind family member saved the day.  After we set up the panels in the chilly evening, I thought we should close off the hay from the llamas so that the llamas could be caught in the morning after opening the corral.  Otherwise they would nibble throughout the night and not be hungry enough to come back or stay. They were leery and not easily contained.  In fact, Kent brought some panel extension material for the entire large corral that would prevent jumping.  We knew we had jumping llamas and his three foot electrical fence was easily tied to the 5 foot panels providing 7 foot high corral.  This was a much better deterrent than my flag tying on the end of bailing wire to the tops of the panels.

I enjoyed the evening light watching the herd of eight llamas plus sheep (ram) and getting acquainted with their dynamics.  Black Beauty is a new mom and it is amazing the tiny cria has survived the snow storm.  The other orphan cria sticks by the black mama llama as well.  There are three crias, in the mini herd, two female mothers, and three young bachelors.

The next morning Kent arrived early and opened the corral to allow them in for the grass hay and the alfalfa I also spread around.  He noted that they would not all enter at once and furthermore, there were only 6 llamas to be seen.  The newborn cria was missing as was one of the young males.  My fear was they met with a predator and the young male, in trying to protect the cria, was also gone or very injured.  Should we capture the six in hand or should we wait to see if the other two arrive?  It was pins and needles as we cleverly hid a few hundred feet away inside the truck up the road.  Kent’s plan was for me to drive down the road and he would jump out while in motion and close the gate on the herd.  They were not afraid of traffic and would not suspect a person leaping from a moving vehicle.  We sat for about a half hour – I was dreading the fate of the two missing llamas when all the sudden, we see the little cria coming through the woods happily trotting towards her mother and the young male baby sitter walking calmly behind her.  What a miracle!  We called the yearling male Black Back, the Caretaker.  I was so happy to see them, I could have cried.  We spoke in whispers even though they could not hear us as we waited for all the llamas to find their way into the buffet.  I was afraid starting the truck might startle the llamas – my starter was painfully loud - so when another vehicle was driving by, I started up the engine and idled until Kent and Frank were ready to do the sneaky deed.  Without rushing, while they were contentedly nibbling, we went into gear and drove slowly by, Kent and Frank leapt out to quickly close the gate on eight llamas and a ram.  Success!  We all felt great and there was a mini celebration of high fives before we had to get them loaded up on the trailers, load up panels and other material, and head home.  But more exciting times were still to come.

It looked like we would need to put all the llamas in my trailer so that Kent could take the ram in his trailer.  Although I had a tack room that Mr. Ram might have fit into, I could not take him to my place and I was thinking I needed the tack room to put the newborn cria in there for her safety (she was maybe a week old).  So, the logistics of this ram as well as having Kent’s two llamas in my trailer and there not being a corral at Kent’s place (since we had to use his panels) was a messy problem that could only be solved satisfactorily if I found a home for the ram before getting to Walsenburg.

After loading up Mr. Ram in Kent’s trailer, Kent realized that he may be going home with Mr. Ram instead of the pair of llamas he wanted.  It was late afternoon and about that time, our partner from the family arrived and helped with the loading of the panels.  After that, I was ready to go.  Kent requested help with the electrical line that was strung along the tops of the fence line that surrounded the field left there from the first rescue the month before.  Having my trailer loaded up with the llamas, I was anxious to leave, but Frank was the more patient one and walked out into the snow drifted field and helped with the collection and careful roll up of the hundreds of feet of line.

There was a storm forecasted and very chilly temperatures for the night.  It was already after 5 pm when we started down the mountain and fog started to roll in.  Once down in Fairplay, I had cell phone reception and kept trying to find someone who would take the ram so that Kent could then take his llamas from my load.  I left several messages with people I knew, posted on social media sites, and even made a quick Craig’s list add: Free Merino Wool Ram!

The most exciting time was while driving down the mountain.  The fog was coming in and while driving in the dark, I realized that I was not sticking to the road!  My tires were slipping and it felt like the trailer full of llamas was pushing me around.  Although we had not yet seen any precipitation, the fog was enough to coat the road with black ice and my two wheel drive Toyota Tundra was not cutting it.  A few miles in I decide I must pull over.  Other cars are driving along fine but with my vehicle and llama load, it was just too scary.  I realized I should let Kent know that he should stay back in Fairplay and I called him on the phone just to hear him in a panic as he nearly slid off the road.  Oops!  I let him know that I am going to be waiting on the shoulder.  Frank and I sit for about two hours before we see a sand truck go by in the other direction around 9:30 pm and decide to follow if he comes by going East, where we are headed.  Kent who had pulled over onto a better shoulder a mile ahead of us was not ready to go again but I was cold, hungry, and cramped enough to see how the road handled with a little sand.  Going 10-15 miles an hour with other vehicles whizzing by, we white knuckled it into Canon City, Colorado to get to a fast food place before closing – but missed it by 10 minutes.  We had very little to eat or drink all day and that made for short tempers.  Just one more hour on the ice and we would be in Pueblo where we had a place to stay and could rest.  Kent was still back on the mountain and our communication this late was sparse, but he had our address in Pueblo and I hoped that he would make it down.   What should have taken us 2.5 hours to drive, took us 7 hours and we arrived exhausted at our house in Pueblo, Colorado at midnight.  The roads were covered in ice the entire way.

The next morning, we meet Kent at our house – he slept in his truck outside and he doesn’t look like that was very successful.  We go out for breakfast and I ask everyone in the place in my loud voice if anyone would like a merino sheep today?  We get a lot of chuckles but no takers.  Given that it is Sunday, I am hoping that I can get hold of my friend before church as she is my best hope for wanting a ram as a 4H project for someone.  Kent wants his llamas delivered to his place and for us to help set up the corral for the ram and llamas - but the road to his place is also perhaps not passable so we have a conundrum all due to Mr. Ram.  Thankfully, right after breakfast, I get a call from my friend and she is willing to take Mr. Ram – Yay! We just have to drive out to “the Lanes” near her place, load Mr. Ram into her trailer, sort out Kent’s llamas from the rescued herd and load them into Kent’s trailer, and everyone can be on their way home with their new animals.

Sunday was a beautiful overcast day and everything went right except for a couple of flat tires that I had in New Mexico (which I was getting quite used to anyway).  And since this rescue, I have already adopted out two of the yearling males and have been building trust in the rest of them and beginning the training process.