How a conscientious Fort Collins Ranger used wildlife cameras to rescue "Dottie," the lost llama of Loveland
By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blogger
Thanks to a conscientious ranger, a spotted llama's harrowing sojourn, which began the summer of 2017 when she presumably wandered off a local llama farm and into Bobcat Ridge Natural Areas Open Space, is over. Dottie was recently relocated to a New Mexico animal sanctuary where she can live out the rest of her llama life, drama-free.
See also: The lost llama of Loveland: an update and Lost llama running around Loveland area
After surviving six months of solitude on the 2,607 acre natural area ---llamas are herd animals and very social, by nature-- Dottie entered the corral adjacent to the ranger's home on her own initiative. This was not an arbitrary turn of events.
"We were trying to get her to get used to coming to a specific location, with the intent to try and capture her there," explains Fort Collins Natural Areas & Trails Ranger, Karl Manderbach. Although the parking lot area has a webcam for visitors to monitor parking conditions, he set up a separate wildlife camera overlooking hay bales that he placed, hoping she would start feeding off of them.
Eventually Dottie was not only feeding off the bales but she was eating hay out of Manderbach's hand. Still skittish, she would run off before he had a chance to coax her into the nearby corral.
Undeterred, he continued to monitor her activities and build trust by feeding her. Then one morning he entered his office and saw she was down in the parking lot. "I shook the grains so she could hear me and she walked right into the corral," explains Manderbach.
The corral was part of the working cattle ranch before the area became open space but the history of the land's inhabitants go further back. There is evidence that the Ute and Arapahoe wintered on the land and lived off Bison. Then the pioneers and homesteaders came and farmed cattle. The natural area opened to the public in fall of 2006, however, as far as anyone knows, this is the first llama it has hosted.
Native to the South American Andes, llamas are relative newcomers to North America, after the presumed migration of the original camelid to Asia across the Bering Strait. In the 1900s William Randolph Hearst imported Llamas to populate San Simeon in California because they were "exotic." According to the New York Times "Ambassador llamas" are sometimes used as therapy animals to visit sick, elderly and disabled. In Colorado they are used as trail animals and sometimes their fleeces are sheared and used as wool for clothing.
The original owner never came forward, however neighboring llama owners recognized and confirmed that her name was Dottie and that prior to her Bobcat Ridge Open Space sojourn she had been the property of a person that no one was willing to identify. This leaves one to infer that, most likely, Dottie had been deliberately abandoned by that person.
After securing Dottie in the corral, local llama farmers and animal sanctuary owners who initially expressed interest in adopting her had lost interest in the prospect. Buckhorn Llama Company owner, Stan Eble, however, "graciously took her for a couple days. State Parks and Wildlife then took her until she ultimately found her new home" explained Manderbach. That is how she finally ended up at an animal sanctuary in New Mexico.
When The Denver Private Investigator Blog initially covered the story, we offered to feature any Colorado private investigator who could figure out who Dottie belonged to. This never occurred, however, thanks to the dedicated Bobcat Ridge Natural Area team Dottie was rescued, regardless.
Private investigators are frequently called upon to solve missing person cases or help adoptees reunite with their birth parents. PIs can also provide surveillance services that involve placing stationary cameras in locations that a person of interest is likely to go.
Although Karl Manderbach is not a private investigator and Dottie is not a "person" we feel it is appropriate to feature the City of Fort Collins' Bobcat Ridge Natural Area, regardless. You can learn more about Bobcat Ridge on the video we've embedded at the end of the article along with driving directions so you can plan your visit!
Bobcat Ridge's address is 10184 West County Road 32C, Loveland. From Fort Collins, take Harmony Road west, it turns into CR 38 E. Follow CR 38 E to Masonville. Go left (south) at the Masonville Mercantile onto CR 27. Follow CR 27 about 1 mile to CR 32 C, head west about 1 mile to the Bobcat Ridge parking lot.
From Loveland, go west on Highway 34 about 4.5 miles west of Wilson Avenue. Turn north on CR 27 by Big Thompson Elementary and drive 4.5 miles. Turn left on CR 32C and go 1 mile west to the Bobcat Ridge parking lot.
Note: The parking lot often fills to capacity on weekends and holidays. If the lot is full, please come back another time (no parking on the road). Horse trailer parking is limited to 8 spots. Check the camera below before you go!
Additional Bobcat Ridge references used:
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