- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2006

Montgomery County animal control officers are searching for one of three pet llamas who escaped Sunday night after a pack of dogs tried to attack the animals in their pen in Darnestown.

The three llamas broke out of their pen about 11:30 p.m. Two llamas were quickly found unharmed, but the third — named Zodiac — remained missing last night.

“He is frosty black, like an old man who is graying,” said Gretchen Carroll, who with her husband, Lothar Schuettler, owns the llamas. “He has white on his forelegs, deep brown eyes and long eyelashes.”

Mrs. Carroll said she and her husband discovered their llamas missing after they were awakened by a high-pitched sound coming from the llamas’ pen.

By the time Mr. Schuettler jumped out of bed and ran outside with a flashlight, Mrs. Carroll said, he found that the llamas had broken through their metal-reinforced fence and run away.

Montgomery County police found out about the missing llamas early yesterday morning when someone reported seeing the llamas near Darnestown Road and Bondy Lane. A few minutes later, a second caller told police that the llamas were near Chestnut Oak Drive, less than a mile away from Bondy Lane.

Mrs. Carroll and Mr. Schuettler, who are in their sixties, said they didn’t need the police’s help, said Cpl. Sonia Pruitt, a spokeswoman for the Montgomery County police.

But, Cpl. Pruitt said, because of public-safety reasons, the police began to search for the missing animals.

Llamas are harmless but extremely curious, Mrs. Carroll said. But, police warned that llamas can get easily annoyed and can be dangerous if they are cornered.

“They are fairly large animals,” Cpl. Pruitt said.

“There is a possibility that a car could hit it and cause a lot of damage.”

Llamas tend to be timid and usually run away when they are scared. However, when they are very frightened or annoyed, they might make a groaning sound and then begin spitting. When scared, a llama might lie down, hiss or refuse to move, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

The first llama was found in a neighbor’s yard at 7:30 a.m. yesterday, Mrs. Carroll said.

The second was found by two police officers a few hours later along Darnestown Road, Mrs. Carroll said. With her help, police got a halter on it, and Mrs. Carroll said she walked it home.

Mrs. Carroll and her husband bought two of the llamas Saturday so that their other llama would have company.

“Llamas are herd animals,” Mrs. Carroll said. “They can’t stand to be alone.”

This is not the first time that dogs have attacked the couple’s llamas or other pets in their neighborhood.

A few weeks ago, Mrs. Carroll said, one of their llamas was killed when it tried to escape a pack of dogs.

Last week, a pack of dogs killed a neighbor’s sheep and goat, Mrs. Carroll said. One of the dogs was described as a Doberman pinscher with a red collar.

“It is very unusual to have dogs killing animals,” said neighbor Gary Young, who owned the sheep and goat. “It’s not like we have a huge problem around here.”

Police ask anyone who sees the llama to call 301/279-8000 or 911.

“We will need the public’s help in finding the llama,” Cpl. Pruitt said. “But we are asking them to be careful.”

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