Fierce, Territorial Llamas Act as Bouncers for a Wildlife Refuge

By Smriti Rao | April 28, 2010 2:37 pm

29696004_5bc6891117_oThe guys guarding the velvet rope at downtown’s hottest nightspot may be tough–but at least they don’t spit like these llama bouncers.

The BBC reports that two llamas, Willy and Jack, have been drafted to protect the eggs and chicks of wading birds at the Merseyside nature park in Britain–in particular, they’ll guard lapwing and redshank birds, which are threatened species in England.

Researchers say that the highly territorial llamas will kick up a fuss if intruders drop by, and will scare away foxes and other predators looking to snack on eggs or chicks. With the llamas on watch, the park officers hope, the young birds will have a shot at survival.

This is not the first time that llamas have been deployed to protect livestock. The llama and its relative the alpaca have previous work experience protecting lambs and sheep from predators. Alpacas, in fact, come with great references—having been employed by the Prince of Wales to protect his lambs from foxes during lambing season at his Gloucestershire estate.

Looking at the llamas’ resumes, it’s their bouncing skills that stand out. The BBC describes:

It is hoped their slightly erratic behavior, along with the groaning noises and the sound they make when afraid or angry, will be a deterrent. They are also known to spit at and attack each other when provoked, but are gentle creatures when calm.

When they’re off duty, Willy and Jack are quite the charmers; with a local farmer telling the BBC, “The ‘boys’ are a great hit with locals and visitors to the reserve.”

Related Content:
Discoblog: Last Night a Llama Saved My Life: Animal Antibodies Could Treat Cancer, Diabetese
DISCOVER: Secrets of the Alpaca Mummies

Image: Flickr / Nao-Cha

MORE ABOUT: alpacas, birds, foxes, llamas
  • Kristen

    Here in Boulder, Colorado, the owner of Rocky Mountain Llamas recommends placing llamas with flocks of sheep to serve as “guard dogs.” As well, llamas on her ranch protect themselves quite nicely from curious coyotes and the like by being even curioser (they will approach and investigate anything that is unique or new to them).

  • LlamaLill

    As an employee of Boulder CO’s Rocky Mountain Llamas ranch (and equipment/supplies catalog), I wholeheartedly confirm Kristen’s post! Llamas have worked with humans as “beasts of burden” for over 6000 years, but their livestock guarding abilities have often been overlooked. A good llama guardian will move the animals under its care–generally sheep or goats, but sometimes even chickens, horses or cattle–to a safe place; then take position at the front of the herd to protect them. This guardian may emit a loud, whinny- or bleat-like sound we term the “alarm call.” They’ll charge the intruder, chase, and may rear up and stomp down. Highly effective against predators such as coyotes and foxes; but if mountain lions or bears are the problem, one would do better to bring the herd into safe shelter at night, provide appropriate fencing, and maybe even get a livestock guardian dog… or a few (Great Pyrenees, Akbash, Komondor, etc.).

  • Tom K

    Just so the misconception doesn’t continue spreading – llamas spitting at humans is not a common occurrence, except from llamas who have behavior problems. Often, these behavior problems are the end result of how the humans interacted with the llamas while raising the llamas. I’d encourage anyone thinking about using llamas as livestock guard animals to first read a book about llama behavior and handling, rather than jumping in feet first and attempting to learn as you go. This is especially important when raising an intact male llama. But, as stated by the previous two posters, they are wonderful guard animals. I ignore dogs barking at night, but never ignore llama’s “alarm calls.” They are amazingly patient with other animals and are very careful around all our baby goats.


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