Ike the Yellowstone llama who came in from the cold. Photo: Lorna Scribner

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Our readers never cease to amaze us with their compassion…especially for animals. Our lost dog posts always spread like wildfire across social media. Wildlife issues are sure bet popular stories.

And then there’s Ike. As soon as we posted the story about the lost llama traipsing through Yellowstone, all of you folks began asking the same thing: “Has he been rounded up yet?”

Where would you be if you were a llama in Yellowstone alone for the first time? (Lorna Scribner)

Well, we’re pleased to be able to report Ike has been rescued. He’s safe and sound. And it took a virtual llama whisperer to do the job.

Meet Susi Huelsmeyer-Sinay. She’s kind of a ‘Dalai Llama’ of sorts. Huelsmeyer-Sinay has been involved with llamas in various capacities for more than 25 years. She’s trained them, packed with them, rescued them. As the saying goes, Susi has forgotten more about llamas than most people will ever know.

Susi heard about Ike and his situation last Thursday and set out to save him. She worked with park officials to get permission to come in and possibly spend a few days in Yellowstone to try and locate Ike. As a Yellowstone concessionaire with her own company, Yellowstone Llamas, the park was fine with letting Susi trailer in three of her own animals as ‘bait.’

“I coordinated with the Park Service and mounted a rescue mission of my own,” Huelsmeyer-Sinay said. “I had received an email, tipping me off that Ike was last seen near Lewis Lake. When we got there, we spotted him fairly quickly with binoculars about a mile from our base camp.”

Ike doesn’t know it yet, but these three llamas are about to become his new BFFs. (Lorna Scribner)

Susi knew Ike would take a shine to her llamas. Any llamas, really.

“They are a herd animal. They need companionship. They seek out their own kind and want to be with other llamas,” Huelsmeyer-Sinay said.

Sure enough, all Susi needed to do was get close enough to Ike for him to see some ‘friends.’

“My llamas were very instrumental,” Huelsmeyer-Sinay said. “He was happy to see other llamas. Ike saw my llamas and he came over. I never touched him. I never cornered him. I didn’t have to.”

Susi Huelsmeyer-Sinay

Susi instinctively played herself into the background and let the llamas do the work. Once they buddied up, Ike was ready to go anywhere Susi’s llamas went and she knew it.

She hiked her new fourth llama out with the rest of the gang. When Susi’s three llamas jumped in the trailer, so did Ike, right behind them.

“It looked like he had decided he was ready to do this. He knew winter was coming. These are not stupid animals,” Huelsmeyer-Sinay said.

Susi has Ike back at her place in Bozeman now. He had a vet check him out yesterday. He’s a little underweight but fine. Ike may remain in his new home for a while. His future is not certain yet, but he has a home whatever happens. “He is safe in a warm place,” Huelsmeyer-Sinay assured.

Only Ike knows what his life was like loose in Yellowstone for the past three months. But a future there looked grim.

“He would not have survived the winter. Llamas are pretty hardy, from the Andes. It’s harsh there, too. But they are not goats, and Yellowstone is Yellowstone,” Huelsmeyer-Sinay said. “He probably did fine for a while but I do think he missed other llamas. And I think he knew that Yellowstone is a dangerous place for him. It’s probably why he was often seen on roads or near people—he was trying to stay away from predators.”

Like most of the park’s annual four million visitors, Ike has a story to tell now and probably a few fond memories. But if you’re a llama, grain, a stall, and the company of your own kind looks pretty good right about now.

Ike (L) happy to hanging out with other llamas after three months running around Yellowstone National Park. (Susi Huelsmeyer-Sinay)