TAOS, N.M. (KRQE)- A man’s love of animals is not only saving the lives of dozens of llamas throughout New Mexico, it’s giving tourists and residents a chance to experience what the Land of Enchantment has to offer in a unique way.
What started as a passion project for a man rescuing llamas in Taos has quickly turned into a booming business.
They call him the Llama Man.
“I’ve become a little bit of a local character,” said Stuart Wilde.
Taos has become a tourist destination for its skiing, whitewater rafting and horseback riding. Now, Stuart Wilde and his llamas are adding “Llama Trekking” to that list.
“In New Mexico, you can’t have an outdoor experience without having a cultural experience,” Wilde said.
For Wilde, this business venture happened almost accidentally. Wilde got a few llamas for his own personal use 25 years ago, using them to carry items as he and his son hiked through the mountains. Wilde said people began taking notice.
“The phone started ringing and hasn’t stopped. People just wanted me to take them out hiking and camping with the llamas,” Wilde said.
From that point on, Wilde began rescuing these exotic animals from places in and around the state. Some from people who just couldn’t take care of them anymore and he moved them to his refuge outside of Taos.
“I can’t even shear them until they let me near them. These animals are feral when we get them. They’re not cute little babies that we can mold into the best little llama kind of thing. These are typically grumpy adults and scared. A lot of the ones that we have still are not approachable, typically. They’ve never been groomed or handled. They’ll have dreadlocks down to the ground,” Wilde said.
It was then, that “Wild Earth Llama Adventures” was founded.
Of the llamas Wilde’s rescued, only a handful of those go on to become “trekking” llamas.
But the treks are not just about the llamas, Wilde says it’s also about learning the local ecology.
“All day long I’m going to be pointing out and showing local edibles and medicinals,” Stuart said during the trek.
It’s this well-rounded experience that Wilde says has attracted people from all over the country and even the world, for example, a family visiting from Atlanta, Georgia.
“I expected a lot. I expected it to be wonderful but it’s even more wonderful than I anticipated,” Pam and Dan Galenkamp said.
In his 25 commercial seasons, Wilde says he’s taken tens of thousands of people out on treks through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Wilde says the next phase of his venture is creating an animal rescue area, where all of the unwanted llamas can have a forever home.