A pack llama named Joaquin has been on the loose in Yellowstone National Park for more than a week after being spooked by bison in rut.
Susi Hülsmeyer-Sinay is the owner of Yellowstone Llamas, the first licensed llama outfitter in Yellowstone. The company leads single and multi-day hikes using llamas as pack animals.
On Aug. 14, a Yellowstone Llamas guide was leading a multi-day pack trip on the 37-mile Cache Creek Trail. When they camped for the night, the llamas were put on lines attached to metal stakes in the ground in a nearby pasture so they could graze and sleep.
During the night, several bison ran through the camp and the pasture where the llamas were grazing. Joaquin, a large male llama closest to the bison, was spooked, pulled up his line and bolted down the Cache Creek Trail.
“He’s terrified of bison,” Susi said. “And right now, the bison are in rut. He will not go anywhere near bison.”
Scared And Skittish
The guide leading the trip followed and attempted to bring Joaquin back, but the llama kept moving until they lost sight of him.
Susi believes Joaquin was heading to the trailhead where the Yellowstone Llamas truck and trailer were located. But there were bison there too, so he avoided the trailhead.
Three days later, a group of hikers spotted Joaquin near Trout Lake, roughly 4 miles away. There have been no reported sightings since.
Yellowstone Llamas has sent several search parties looking for Joaquin since his disappearance. Wolf watchers, construction crews, outfitters and wildlife tour operations in the Lamar Valley have been notified and are keeping their eyes open for Joaquin.
Susi believes Joaquin will not be difficult to capture once he’s located.
“He is very friendly. If anyone sees or approaches him, he won’t run away,” she said. “Our hope is that we get a sighting.”
This isn’t Susi’s first experience with a lost Yellowstone llama. In 2018, she rescued a llama near Lewis Lake.
That llama, renamed “Lewis” after his rescue, was abandoned by another llama outfitter and roamed the park for three months. He has been part of Susi’s llama troupe since.
Llamas are hearty beasts, often used as guard animals on Wyoming ranches. Joaquin is as large as an elk and has a similar diet.
So, a llama can survive in Yellowstone. But Susi is still worried about Joaquin’s survival, mainly because he’s dragging a line.
“He could get snagged. If he doesn’t get snagged with a line, I think he can survive just fine,” she said.
“(Llamas) are not pets that need people. They’re very alert,” she said. “Of course, we want him back. If I didn’t have to worry about the line, I’m pretty hopeful he can survive just fine.”
Anyone who spots Joaquin should report the sighting to Yellowstone’s Backcountry Office at 307-344-2160.