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Llamas on the loose east of Park Rapids

Hubbard County Sgt. Cory Aukes uses his squad vehicle to gently move a group of escaped llamas down the road to their farmstead. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)1 / 2
A herd of runaway llamas seems confused by a stop sign on County Road 81, but then dashed out into traffic. Two vehicles stopped and laughed out loud at the site of the animals. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)2 / 2

To the ever-growing list of duties the Hubbard County Sheriff's Department is responsible for, add "llama wranglers."

That was the call Sgt. Cory Aukes got Monday morning. Another deputy handled a similar call last month. Aukes took his assignment in good humor.

Ken Kalish houses 27 llamas, rescued from farms and other unwanted domiciles, just east of Park Rapids on 189th Avenue. It's called Carma Llama Rescue.

They occasionally make a break for it. Such was the case when "Mama Llama" went through the fence, taking a small herd with her.

"She's the ringleader," Kalish said. "Everybody follows her when she gets out."

Actually, it didn't appear as if anyone was following anyone. They clearly didn't have a game plan.

"They're over on the Heartland Trail," said a neighbor, who got in her vehicle to try to round them up.

Ordinarily, a small herd of llamas might startle the hikers, bicyclists and roller bladers who frequent the trail. But on a 40-degree day, when the drizzle looked suspiciously like snow, the llamas clip-clopped down the asphalt trail unbothered.

Then they took a cross- country jaunt, heading through the woods, the fields and all over, heads pointing in different directions.

"Remind me to never get a llama," radioed the last deputy to get the call. "They are the dumbest animals on the earth."

Aukes was slightly more diplomatic. "He's building a new fence," he said of Kalish. "Then maybe we won't get these calls anymore."

Aukes herded the six strays with his squad SUV, gently urging them in the direction of home.

But the intersection of 189th and County Road 81 gave them too many choices; they darted out willy-nilly into oncoming traffic.

Two startled motorists taking the country road stopped, rolled down their windows and laughed out loud.

"Whose are these?" asked two women who pulled over.

The llamas dashed on by.

Kalish was still out looking for the beasts an hour later, unaware they'd made their own way home, on their own terms, in their own fashion, moseying through a field.

But it turns out he knew his animals all too well. They continued their Ferris Bueller day off scampering through yet another field instead of going home. Kalish called several hours later to report he'd finally corralled the animals.

Aukes went on another call, shaking his head as he drove by, trying to suppress a smile.

For law enforcement officers who answer domestic abuse calls day and night, referee property disputes and pull drunk drivers off the roads, llamas on the lam are probably a welcome respite, and a good comic diversion.