Wandering alpaca continues to elude Fairbanks rescuers

Posted: Friday, September 24, 2004

FAIRBANKS (AP) A wayward alpaca continues to elude would-be rescuers near a trail 60 miles east of Fairbanks.

What had been reported earlier as a loose llama turned out to be a smaller cousin, an alpaca, and a Fairbanks woman is looking for help in capturing it before cold temperatures or a bear kill it.

The alpaca has been running loose on a hiking trail in the Chena River State Recreation Area.

''We can't leave him out there,'' Dorrie Breese told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ''He's going to perish.''

Breese grew up with llamas that her mother, Ann Laughlin, raised in Fairbanks. Alpacas are raised mainly for their wool, not their packing abilities.

How an alpaca ended up on the Chena Dome Trail, a 29-mile hiking loop at the end of Chena Hot Springs Road, remains a mystery. The animal was first spotted by hikers about 1.5 miles from the road on Labor Day weekend.

''They're not a pack animal. It makes no sense why he would be out there,'' Breese said.

Fairbanks North Star Borough Animal Control sent an officer to look for the alpaca Sept. 10. The officer did not find it, said acting shelter manager April Barnes.

''He patrolled three miles up the trail and didn't see it and he spoke to several hikers and none of them had seen it,'' she said. Catching it would require more staffing than the shelter has, Barnes said.

Alaska State Parks ranger Brooks Ludwig said he's not sure what his agency can do. The animal has not posed a threat to hikers, he said. He hopes Breese or someone else will ''take the lead'' in catching the animal.

''If it goes another week we'll send someone up there, but what are you going to do?'' the ranger asked.

Breese, 35, used to deliver newspapers on the north side of Fairbanks using one of her mother's two llamas. She, her husband and two children hiked out to try to lasso the alpaca. They took grain and water to lure it but the alpaca wasn't receptive.

''I got within four feet of it,'' Breese said.

Last weekend, Breese and her husband found the alpaca six or seven miles farther up the trail, above treeline on top of 4,400-foot Chena Dome. They tried to herd it down the trail but the animal darted into thick brush. The animal showed no interest in the food Breese offered, choosing instead to nibble on lichen and low-growing brush.

''He definitely doesn't want to be rescued,'' Breese said. ''He's very reluctant to come near anybody.''

Ludwig on Sunday received a report that the alpaca was back about 1.5 miles from the road.

''It must have followed them back down,'' Ludwig said, referring to Breese and her husband. While the animal did not appear to be starving, Breese inspected the animal's droppings and reported them to be ''very dry.''

''He just doesn't seem healthy to me,'' she said.

Short of using a tranquilizer gun or assembling a large rescue party, Breese doesn't know what to do. She said she wonders if trying to entice the animal with the company of another alpaca would help.

''Hiking up there with more food, I don't think that's going to do it,'' she said. ''Another llama would really help.''

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