Think llamas are insulated from economic fluctuations? Think again.
"The economy is going; people are trying to get rid of their animals," said John Bittner, owner of Fossil Creek Llama Ranch.
Meet llamas up for adoption at Llama Daze this Saturday, July 19. The free event will start at 9 a.m. and last until 5 p.m. at the Strawberry ranch.
Llamas and llama lovers -- or just those interested in learning -- can gather for a day-long llamaganza to benefit the nonprofit Arizona Llama Rescue.
"There will be llamas all over the place," Bittner said. "It'll be a full day of learning about llamas."
He expects people from all over the state.
Llama education will include how to care for and feed the animals, their habits and behaviors, how to shear their hair, prepare it and spin it.
Llama fiber can be spun into yarn for knitting, weaving or crocheting.
Llamas, according to Bittner, also make excellent companions.
"We use them for camping, backpacking, hiking," Bittner said. "They're nice pets."
Members of the camel family, llamas can carry more than 60 pounds. Multiple day hiking and camping events attract llama owners as they frolic in the woods together.
The animals feed off the forest floor and drink out of creeks while on hikes, making them rather low-maintenance animals.
According to Llama Rescue, their soft-padded feet make the animals environmentally friendly.
When not in the forest, llamas eat grain, hay and grass.
Llamas sometimes compete in llama racing events, or jump through obstacle courses. "Same thing you do with dogs," Bittner said.
Llamas with exceptional breeding or who excel in competitions can cost upwards of $100,000. Low-end llamas can cost a few hundred dollars. On Saturday, select animals given up for adoption will be available for free.
The Llama Rescue educates the public and prospective llama owners about how to train them and what traits to expect. The organization also rescues and finds homes for unwanted llamas, and runs a foster llama program.
According to Llama Rescue, lifestyle changes are the main reasons an owner gives up his llama.