PHOENIX – Two quick-footed llamas dashed in and out of traffic in a Phoenix-area retirement enclave before they were captured by authorities, causing a stir in the streets and on social media.
A large, white llama and a smaller black llama darted through the streets of Sun City during the lunch hour. Cars and golf carts stopped in their tracks because of the wayward livestock.
The fugitive llamas were part of a trio that was making a therapy visit to residents at an assisted living facility.
Their televised breakout Thursday from GenCare SunCity at The Carillons quickly inspired a Twitter account and several hashtags including #LlamasonTheLoose, #llamadrama and #TEAMLLAMAS.
Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain and the Arizona Cardinals got in on the fun. McCain tweeted that he was "glad that #LlamaDrama 2015 has been peacefully resolved!" The Cardinals tweeted that team "agreed to one-year deals with the #llamasontheloose," promising the animals a salary in hay.
Even the North American Aerospace Defense Command tweeted: "Llama had no known connections to ISIS. Appears to have self-radicalized."
The llama saga also made Lorenzo Lamas a trending topic. Some on Twitter joked that it was actually the actor who was on the loose in Arizona.
The senior center's executive director, Jill Parsons, said it was the first time the facility had hosted the llamas. Sun City is a community of about 37,000 people that is primarily made up of retirees.
For more than an hour, residents petted the animals and walked them up and down the halls, Parsons said. Sometime after 11 a.m., the llamas' handlers took them outside for a bathroom break. That's when one got startled and took off, with the second llama in pursuit.
Parsons said staff and some residents tried to help corral the animals. Even the facility's chef made an effort by waving some lettuce.
"He Googled 'What do llamas like to eat' and it brought up romaine lettuce," Parsons said.
Because there weren't enough people to encircle the llamas, the handlers instructed everyone to slowly walk toward them with their arms out.
"So many times we thought we were going to get them there, and they would dart in another direction," Parsons said.
The llamas got around the corner of the building and broke into a run down the street. That's when someone called 911, according to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
The animals galloped along the sidewalk, through manicured yards and along street medians. They thwarted numerous attempts by sheriff's deputies and bystanders to round them up before they finally were roped into custody.
The black llama was captured first. The white one was nabbed after two men in the back of a moving pickup repeatedly threw out a lasso. It took three men to secure the rope.
The entire ordeal lasted about an hour. Sheriff's spokesman Brandon Jones said nobody was hurt and the llamas were returned to their owners. No criminal charges will be filed.
Parsons declined to identify the owners, saying they were somewhat embarrassed by the incident. But she said her facility "would welcome them back in a heartbeat."
Follow Terry Tang at https://www.twitter.com/ttangAP .