Efforts to capture two pack llamas that have been stranded for a month in the Weminuche Wilderness have so far been unsuccessful.
The llamas, Dawson and Chai, accompanied two women who became lost for two cold nights in the rugged terrain northeast of Vallecito Reservoir. The women were ultimately rescued by helicopter, but they had to set the llamas free to fend for themselves.
Ronda Ramsier, one of the women who was lost, said she and her husband, Jack McGroder, have made four attempts, several days each, to locate and rescue the llamas, but as of Tuesday, they remained elusive.
There have been two sightings, including one on Aug. 22 in which McGroder was close enough to lasso Dawson, but he slipped out of the rope and moved to higher ground, Ramsier said.
“We have not seen them since, and they do not appear to be in the vicinity where they were lost, so we have to figure out what to do next,” she said.
With hunters abundant this time of year, Ramsier and her husband are hopeful someone will report their location. She has placed signs at the trailhead and has reached out to people coming and going from that area, including a cattle rancher.
People have suggested using a plane or a helicopter to search, but aircraft would likely fly too high to spot the animals, especially if they are in the trees, Ramsier said. Others have suggested using a drone, but it is illegal to launch drones from within the boundaries of congressionally designated wilderness areas.
Llamas can be difficult to coax toward humans, but they are sociable with other llamas. Some people have suggested Ramsier and her husband take other llamas to help lure them. But before taking llamas into the wilderness, they would like to first pinpoint Dawson’s and Chai’s location, Ramsier said.
The llamas can survive on bark, pine needles and certain kinds of vegetation. They also don’t need much water, and can subsist by licking the dew off the morning leaves. It’s possible the llamas will follow the grass line and hopefully go in the right direction as the snow starts to fly, she said.
“We believe they have good enough instincts that they will come down as it gets colder and as the snow flies,” she said.
But she’s not giving up her search efforts.
“It’s on my mind constantly,” Ramsier said. “It’s keeping me awake at night. I feel responsible, and I’m not in any way ready to give up. ... We really like their strange kind of other-world personalities.”
Ramsier and her cousin, Carol Powell of Rittman, Ohio, became lost Aug. 12 in the Cave Basin area after losing a trail while on a day hike. They survived for two nights with minimal gear, including no fire-making devices.
They were rescued about 4:30 a.m. Aug. 14 by the U.S. military, which spotted them shining a $3 flashlight at a helicopter searching the area.