Photos: Great Northern Ranch

When Steve and Sue Rolfing bought their first llama in 1979, there were only a few thousand in the United States and information on breeding and packing was scarce. “There was no one to tell you you were doing it wrong, and there was no information so we just did it,” Steve said. “We didn’t have to study up on a bunch of stuff because there was nothing to study.” Steve was working for the Forest Service at the time, and a nagging back injury forced him to find a new way to haul gear. A co-worker recommended he pack with a llama, and the suggestion blossomed into a booming business. Close to 1,000 baby llamas have been born at the Great Northern Ranch in Columbia Falls. The Rolfings started a packing service in 1980, operating for three years in Glacier National Park and 30 in the Swan Range. They no longer run commercial trips, but instead lease approximately 10 llamas each summer to Swan Mountain Outfitters.

Greg Lindstrom

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