The llowdown on llocal llama rescue ranch
When you decide to adopt a furry companion, your first thought might be to check out the dogs and cats at a local shelter like Colorado Animal Rescue.
But if you’ve got the land for it, stop about halfway up Spring Valley Road at Llama Linda Ranch, a llama and alpaca rescue operation, and consider less conventional four-legged friends.
“People just enjoy llamas for pets because they’re kind of personable,” said Linda Hayes, who owns and operates the ranch. “They’re interesting, they’re curious, they’re fun to watch in the pasture. They do a lot of antics.”
In addition to being good, social pets, llamas are also frequently used for packing in this area. They can carry 50 or 60 pounds into the mountains, Hayes said. There’s also a show circuit, and their wool can be sold and woven into yarn to make clothes and rugs. Plus, they’re pretty easy to care for: Five llamas consume about as much food per day as one horse — which is good, because llamas should always live at least in pairs so they don’t get lonely.
Hayes became interested in llamas after a lifetime of working with horses, she said.
“I’d been doing horses all my life, and I always liked animals with a lot of fur,” she said. “So I’d always wanted llamas. I got two and then a third, and after that I realized they were so easy to handle — much easier than horses — so I just started getting more and more and started selling the babies.”
Hayes started her llama and alpaca rescue ranch in Texas in 1989. During the hot Texas summers, she would send her llamas to Colorado, where the climate is more comfortable for them. In 2000, she decided to move to her Glenwood Springs location permanently.
Currently, Llama Linda Ranch is home to 15 llamas, including Hayes’ own and animals that she boards. None of them are up for adoption right now.
But during the height of the recession, and during fires on the Front Range, Hayes played an important role in making sure llamas across Colorado had a good home.
“In 2008 when the economy was so bad, a lot of people just didn’t have the money to keep them,” she said. “And I got quite a few when they had the fires over by Denver a couple years ago. Some of those people just got wiped out, and they couldn’t build back. One farm had all wood fences, so all their fences were ruined, and the animals had some burn marks on their backs from where they couldn’t get them out in time.”
For the most part, though, the llamas Hayes takes in are from people who have simply gotten too old to care for them anymore. (A llama lifespan is 20 to 30 years.)
“When we started out with llamas, they were really expensive because they were so rare,” she said. “So the people who were able to get them were usually people who were older, who had made their money in a career of some sort. And now those people are getting really old and moving off the ranch and going to a nursing home or a condominium. They can’t take care of them anymore.”
Every now and then, Hayes works with the Humane Society to take in llamas that have been abused or mistreated, but she said for the most part, the llamas at her ranch come from good owners whose circumstances have changed.
Hayes plays a part when needed in getting llamas to good homes.
“To be honest about it, what’s happening more than people adopting them is what we call rehomes,” she said. “That’s where someone will call me and say, ‘I’ve got two llamas I can no longer take care of. I just want a good home for them.’ And then somebody else calls and says, ‘I’d really like some llamas.’ And so I just put the two people together, and it’s up to the person that’s giving them up to check out the new person.”
Hayes said she invites people to come to the ranch to learn more about the llamas, especially if they’re considering adopting. But if you want a llama, you’d better act quickly: They’re becoming popular pets again.
“I’ve had two people this week call wanting llamas, and I don’t have any llamas to give,” Hayes said. “Now that the economy is getting better, people are keeping them or getting new ones, and they’re pretty hard to find. I’ve got a waiting list of people wanting llamas.”
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