SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
We want to alert our listeners now. This is a local news update from the sheriff's office in Oconee County, Ga. Quote, "around 4 p.m. Wednesday, dispatch notified Chief Deputy Lee Weems that someone had reported a baby camel running loose in Epps Bridge Road. Our deputies are not trained in South American camelid identification, but they quickly determined that the animal in question was actually a llama." Chief Weems joins us now on the line from Georgia. Chief Weems, thanks very much for being with us.
LEE WEEMS: How are you?
SIMON: Sounds like a serious situation, sir. What's been going on?
WEEMS: Well, we had a llama that belongs to a resident here in the county that apparently decided to go for a little stroll and managed to get from her pasture right into our busiest commercial area. Deputies responded to the scene and got it into the parking lot of the Cook Out restaurant, which is a local fast food chain, and they got the llama into the dumpster area behind the restaurant and closed the gates and trapped it in there.
SIMON: Citizens are very grateful for that quick action, I'm sure. To what do you attribute the confusion between camel and llama?
WEEMS: (Laughter) Well, that I don't know. When the dispatcher called me, she was laughing. And she's like, yeah, we've gotten a call of a baby camel in the road and she said, no, we think it's a llama. And I guess someone's not - just like our deputies, they aren't trained in South American camelid identification.
SIMON: Yeah. You're going to - you're going to take care of that in the future, sir?
WEEMS: (Laughter) I hope it doesn't come up again. But it's causing such a stir that the alpacas are going to start demanding equal time.
SIMON: Oh, boy. And we - and they get organized. We know. We hear from alpacas all the time.
WEEMS: That's right.
SIMON: There's been a lot of attention to this story, Chief Deputy, hasn't there?
WEEMS: Yeah. It's - I guess people just needed a laugh or president-elect Trump didn't tweet anything that day.
SIMON: (Laughter) Now you're making me laugh and I'm trying to keep a straight face. I want to share some of the Facebook message that you posted.
SIMON: OK. You're with a longtime resident of the county named Rufus.
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WEEMS: Her family's been escaping from pastures here for years and nobody has paid attention. And now some South American upstart camelid gets loose and everybody goes nuts.
SIMON: Now, I hope we don't get too personal. You referred to her as her, but there's a little more going on than that, isn't there?
WEEMS: Well, that it is - Rufus is the heifer's actual name.
WEEMS: But it is a heifer. You know, there was a picture that we posted on our page with our Captain James Hale. We were jokingly calling him the llama whisperer. The heifer that's in that little video in the audio clip that you just played is Captain Hale's daughter's show heifer. She actually is going to show that heifer this year, and they have the livestock shows in the state.
SIMON: Well, forgive me for putting it this way, but nice-looking heifer.
WEEMS: (Laughter) Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
SIMON: So if I were to visit Oconee County, would I have to worry about llama or alpaca running free and running into me on the street?
WEEMS: I hope not. I hope not. I hope that the llama stays contained and that we don't have any more of this. Quite frankly, it's taken up a good bit of our time, and it would be nice if the llama would stay contained.
SIMON: Yeah, and the residents of Oconee County could sleep safely tonight.
WEEMS: Yes, sir, you know, because you just can't relax when you have llamas running loose.
SIMON: Boy, do I know that, absolutely. Chief Weems, I've got to tell you, you're a pretty funny guy.
WEEMS: Well, thank you.
WEEMS: Well, I suffer from a severe lack of adult supervision.
WEEMS: So it's - and my boss is a little bit more touched in the head than I am, so it all tends to get out there.
SIMON: Well, Chief Deputy Lee Weems, thanks very much for being with us.
WEEMS: Yeah, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.