Dances with llamas
April 23, 2013 6:38 PM   Subscribe

In southern Sweden, scene of recent sheep-killing incidents perpetrated by wolves, llamas are being introduced to see if they will kick wolf-butt and protect the sheep. In the US, the guard llama is becoming a more common "first line of defense" on ranches.

"Llamas have been trialled already as sheep guardians in the US, with authorities finding pleasing decreases in coyotes attacks. The Skåne Board is hoping that the natural fighting instincts of llamas will yield similar results against the Swedish wolf."

In the US, guard llamas keep sheep safe from coyotes. "Llamas react to canids threatening herds in a variety of ways, starting with a posture to alert others in the herd, then sounding a special alarm cry, and often running towards the threat, kicking and placing themselves between it and the herd. Dogs and coyotes have been injured and even killed by llamas."

BBC Worldwide shows donkey and llama vs dog, while llamas will also harass sufficiently annoying people and raise the alarm.
posted by Wordshore (64 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Wolves responded to the news, thanking ranchers for a much-needed expansion of their diet."
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:47 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


"No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death."
posted by leapfrog at 6:53 PM on April 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


In North America, we already do this with an indigenous animal: Donkeys as guardians. People who have seen them in action know, burros are fearless, effective, get along well with other animals, eat the same things as the creatures they are guarding, and in general do a much much better job than a dog ever could.
posted by seasparrow at 6:55 PM on April 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


An alpaca farm I visited a few years back was also using llamas as the guard animal. This was in 2006.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:59 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stupid llama face!
posted by The Whelk at 7:08 PM on April 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


The growing wolf population has been a controversy in Sweden for about a decade. The population of wolves is quite small - estimated to be less than 300 mostly concentrated in central Sweden - which has been managed by controlled hunting.

The wolves are rather fond of sheep - but will kill reindeer and elk - which is why they are still hunted aggressively in Northern part of the country. The Sami rely on the reindeer herds for their livelihood and can't build fences.

The llama is an interesting idea, but if a pack of wolves can take down reindeer and elk, I don't think they will be much bothered by a little llama. As Pople Guilty quipped they're just be another item on the plate.
posted by three blind mice at 7:09 PM on April 23, 2013


Incidentally, "The Guard Llamas" is the name of my new band.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:09 PM on April 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is excellent news. Since wolves were recently delisted from ESA protection in the Lower 48 states, they have been getting slaughtered at an alarming rate. Anything that allows humans to coexist better with wolves is wonderful; I have always thought that there has just got to be a better way of dealing with wolf attacks than simply shooting them wherever we find them. Of course, part of the problem is that they lack sufficient wild prey to serve their needs -- if we hadn't so thoroughly domesticated our wilderness, they would have better options than attacking sheep ranches.
posted by Scientist at 7:10 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Paging Terrapin, paging Dr. Terrapin.
posted by Skorgu at 7:13 PM on April 23, 2013


Also, while llamas are roughly the same size as caribou/reindeer (same thing), effective guarding has more to do with behavior than size. If a prospective prey animal is aggressive in defending itself and its herd, a predator is more likely to move on in search of easier targets than if the prey all panicked and fled. For instance a wolf could probably take on an (unarmed) adult human, and a pack of them certainly could, but wolves have never been a major threat to humans because we fight like bastards and wolves know that. An angry llama could certainly be enough to give a wolf pause.
posted by Scientist at 7:14 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cannot find the link I was looking for, but there are lots of links to guard llamas, Colorado. The one that I remember had a backcountry fishing trek crew in the Colorado Rockies that used horses to transport people, and llamas to transport gear and guard against bears and mountain lions. Their claim was the llamas were the proven best protectors.

I guess doing a scientific quality of this question would cost a lot of dough.

I did find this.
posted by bukvich at 7:28 PM on April 23, 2013


wolves have never been a major threat to humans because we fight like bastards and wolves know that.

Yeah, no. Wolves killing children are a featured part of every folklore on the planet.

Wolves stopped being a major threat when we started killing them on a wide-scale basis with tools, not because wolves collectively went, "Woof. Woof woof woof woof woof."*

* "Dude. These apes fight like bastards."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:31 PM on April 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oh, and while I'm sure a single guard llama is fine for keeping a solitary-hunting coyote away, two wolves will look at a llama and think, "Cool! It's from South America. Let's make empanadas!"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:34 PM on April 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Since I just watched Chopping Mall (seriously, someone uploaded the whole thing to youtube!), I just know this will lead to rogue guard llamas killing unwitting half-naked teenagers who set up camp to make out in sheep gracing areas.

At least, that's what should happen.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:37 PM on April 23, 2013


Yeah, the linked Wikipedia article specifies that the llamas aren't really effective against more than a single predator, which makes sense. It's probably not that hard to annoy a single wolf enough that it goes "Eh, why bother?"
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:40 PM on April 23, 2013


But aren't lamas dedicated to non-violence?
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:40 PM on April 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


I guess that puts me in the "One horse-sized duck" camp.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:40 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


But aren't lamas dedicated to non-violence?

The one-l lama, he's a priest.
The two-l llama, he's a beast.
And I will bet a silk pyjama
There isn't any three-l lllama.*
-- Ogden Nash
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:42 PM on April 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


*The author’s attention has been called to a type of conflagration known as a three-alarmer. Pooh.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:45 PM on April 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


Harley Farms, near here, has had guard llamas for a long time. I visited them about 5 years ago (at the time Lorenzo was the main guard for the milking group we saw).

(I highly recommend a tour if you're in the area. Especially this time a year when all the babies are around and being OMGSUPERCUTEBABYGOATSANDTHEYEATYOURPANTSANDJUMPAROUND. It's a fun tour - you get to milk a goat!).
posted by marylynn at 7:49 PM on April 23, 2013


The important question I have; which is cuter baby llamas or baby goats?
posted by el io at 7:54 PM on April 23, 2013


(hmm, should have linked to baby sheep - my bad).
posted by el io at 7:56 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Only if baby llamas can do this. (YouTube video).
posted by jrochest at 8:39 PM on April 23, 2013


PULL THE LEVER, KRONK
posted by elizardbits at 8:40 PM on April 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


Yeah it's pretty awesome to see the elongated goofy necks of llamas above the fruited plain (or in the shadow of the Rockies). But the ranchers that I've talked to explained it more along the lines of the llamas being a novelty item against coyotes, not a creature actually capable of counting wolf heads and taking names. Though I would totally watch a gif set or five on SUPERLLAMA: LLAMA OF SPIT.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:52 PM on April 23, 2013


Well, male llamas are certainly not to be fucked with due to their "three sets of razor-sharp 'fighting teeth,' which llamas use to rip the scrotum from male competitors in the wild." So they have that going for them.

We generally don't mention this to our four year old daughter when we read the Llama, Llama, Home with Mama etc. books to her.
posted by onlyconnect at 9:24 PM on April 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


Well, male llamas are certainly not to be fucked with due to their "three sets of razor-sharp 'fighting teeth,' which llamas use to rip the scrotum from male competitors in the wild."

WHUT. Sesame Street did not inform me about this when telling me about taking my pet llama to the dentist in Manhattan which I assumed was everything there was to know about llama dentition!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:41 PM on April 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


Seconding what marylynn says about visiting the goats at Harley Farm. That guard llama they have has perfect, perfect posture.
posted by tangerine at 10:19 PM on April 23, 2013


Alpacas protect lambs!
posted by homunculus at 10:32 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this where I post a picture of a couple of our neighbor's new lambs, with their momma?
posted by maxwelton at 10:41 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


jrochest: Only if baby llamas can do this.

Holy shit, those goats are totally the Three Stooges!!

"Hnyuck nyuck nyuck nyuck"
...
"Gnaaehh!!" "Laaaaaa de daaaaahhh daahh dummm ..."
... ...
"Woop-woop-woop-woop-woop-woop, woop, woop, woop-woop"
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:44 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Of course, part of the problem is that they lack sufficient wild prey to serve their needs -- if we hadn't so thoroughly domesticated our wilderness, they would have better options than attacking sheep ranches."

Wolves kill sheep and other domestic livestock because they are easy to kill, not because of a lack of sufficient wild prey. Here in Montana we have far, far, far more wilderness than domestication.
posted by ITravelMontana at 11:56 PM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I read somewhere that male guard llamas sometimes attempt to mate with sheep. Is this true?
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:04 AM on April 24, 2013


Yeah, no. Wolves killing children are a featured part of every folklore on the planet.

But not adult humans.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:10 AM on April 24, 2013


I read somewhere that male guard llamas sometimes attempt to mate with sheep. Is this true?

One suspects that it is likely Rick Santorum will have something to say about this.
posted by Wordshore at 1:17 AM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe it was a European version of this scheme which explains all the Shetland Ponies I saw in The Netherlands yesterday, often romping around a paddock along with similarly-sized sheep. Seriously, I took the train from Maastricht to Schiphol and it was pony after pony after tiny pony.
posted by shelleycat at 2:00 AM on April 24, 2013


PULL THE LEVER, KRONK

WRONG LEVERRRrrrrrrrr
posted by fight or flight at 2:36 AM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dang, they surely do have a protective gene. Oddly, I found this while watching old Sonic Youth videos.
posted by qinn at 3:00 AM on April 24, 2013


Surprised there's not been more discussion of wildlife guarding dogs [pdf link] here.
posted by cromagnon at 3:22 AM on April 24, 2013


Re: the "sufficiently annoying people" video in the post. Was it just me who was willing and wanting the llama to go apeshit and bite the entire group of "let's all surround the llama" people?
posted by Wordshore at 3:56 AM on April 24, 2013


There is a couple that live near me who raise championship show llamas. Apparently one of the things they do in shows is put socks on them.
posted by TedW at 4:26 AM on April 24, 2013


Remember: Llamas are dangerous, so if you see one where people are swimming you shout: "Look out! There are llamas!"
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:50 AM on April 24, 2013


Alpacas protect lambs!

No kidding. At 1:08 that Alpaca is giving the reporter a serious "you better be just about to put him down, arsehole" face.
posted by Brockles at 5:16 AM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Llama vs. wolf? I'm thinking the wolves will win that one.
posted by AllChildrenMatter at 6:04 AM on April 24, 2013


Paging Terrapin, paging Dr. Terrapin.

*rubs sleep from eyes as it is lambing season*

As Skorgu knows I have sheep and llamas. I sleep well at night (when not during lambing season) because these two (gelded) boys are on duty. I have seen them go into their alert pose, and have used binoculars to see what they see. So far I have only seen local cats and foxes, neither of which is really a threat to the sheep. I hear coyotes on our hill, but have never seen one. I have heard their llama alarm call only once and that was when we first got chickens. The chickens were free ranging in our front yard, about 80 yards from where the llamas were, and they spotted them and made their weird sound. I still find it weird I have never heard them make the alarm for the cats or foxes. *shrug*

The other day I had to retrieve a sheep I had sold as a pet because the people to whom I sold it had a coyote attack and killed their only other sheep. They had no guard animals at all. They had had a horse, but it wasn't a permanent member of their farm. The coyote probably was afraid of the large horse, but once it was gone they had no trouble entering the fence and attacking. The retrieved sheep got to see her sister's first lamb born on Tuesday. I have told the owners they will need a guard animal before I will return it, and they understand.

I also subscribe to a number of mailing lists and one might be surprised to find there is a very strong divide between the dog as protector and llama as protector, but not as much as there is for donkeys. Llamas get a bad rap mostly because what people know of them usually comes from seeing them in petting zoos where they are treated so well they think they are in charge, and therefore they are likely to spit. Mine only spit at me when they think I am threatening the sheep, usually when I cam catching them for hoof trimming, shearing, etc. By puffing myself up and showing them I am in charge (I even sometimes make the spitting noise at them) they retreat. Shepherds on the mailing lists will practically shout down people asking about llamas and insist that only dogs will work. Our point of view is that llamas don't need to be trained; they do their guarding instinctively. In the 5 years we have had the sheep and llamas we have not lost a sheep to predators. We have lot a great number of chickens to foxes, hawks and weasel. So many we won't be getting anymore.

Whilst doing research before we got the sheep, we were finding that many people assume that having more than one llama meant they llamas would bond with each other and not the sheep. We have not found that to be the case and think that the studies we read seem focused on VERY large flocks in the west and midwest. Our two llamas have two very different personalities, and often play the good cop, bad cop game. But they also appear to take turns being on duty.

Anyway, llamas are amazing animals. Here is a short video of our flock last year with the lambs using one of the llamas (oddly enough, the "bad cop") as a play thing. They play King of the Hill, and sometimes it is like watching a sheep X Games... "watch me while I totally nail this double kick jump!" And here is another video where the llamas appear to be chasing the sheep and lambs. We think this is some sort of herding exercise for them. Both videos have music/sound.
posted by terrapin at 6:29 AM on April 24, 2013 [22 favorites]


I read somewhere that male guard llamas sometimes attempt to mate with sheep. Is this true?

I imagine it is, which is why we had ours gelded.
posted by terrapin at 6:35 AM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks! I like llamas. Some people near my daughter keep them.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:17 AM on April 24, 2013


Llamas are (somewhat incongruously) used as pack animals at LeConte Lodge in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The lodge sits atop roadless Mount LeConte (6600ft, the third highest mountain in the Park and the highest point in Tennessee). Here's a great movie about the llamas. If you send a postcard from LeConte, the postmark notes that it was "Lugged by Llama."

That said, most people around here keep donkeys or Great Pyrenees to guard their livestock. I haven't seen any llamas on duty... yet.
posted by workerant at 7:28 AM on April 24, 2013


My daughter and I were out Geocaching one day near a sheep farm not too far from her college. It had a guard llama in a field about half a mile away. I swear that thing stood and watched us the entire time we were there, even though we were in a different field on the other side of the road.
posted by tommasz at 8:28 AM on April 24, 2013


Just don't use them to guard your cannabis farm, or you'll end up with high llamas.
posted by orme at 9:03 AM on April 24, 2013


My wife and I were lucky enough to visit a sheep farm on Easter. It had a guard llama, who I imagined glared at us the entire time like a mall security guard. I grew an immediate dislike for the llama, naturally, as how did he know I was seconds away from snatching one of the adorable lambs and making a run of it? Stupid llama.

Links are to photos of said creatures
posted by Atreides at 9:50 AM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


In North America, we already do this with an indigenous animal: Donkeys as guardians.

Donkeys are not indigenous to North America. (Llamas are indigenous to South America)
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:52 AM on April 24, 2013


Thanks for the correction! Pruitt-Igoe, that is true, depending on how you classify "indigenous". Perhaps I should have been more clear that I used the term to mean that donkeys have been present in this hemisphere for more than 500 years, exist in a fully wild state in wide-ranging habitats across the continent, and are fully integrated into our present-day ecosystems. You can claim that almost any plant or animal is "not native" in today's world after centuries of trade and cultivation. As a permaculture enthusiast, I enjoy such discussions, and would be glad to engage you via memail or in an FPP that you make about this topic. I think two of the best, most easily accessible sources that have shaped my own thinking on this matter have been "The Botany of Desire" (Still streaming on Netflix) and Juliett Clutton-Brock's "A Natural History of Domesticated Animals" (unfortunately out of print, but a really fantastic book). I was trying to let people know that in addition to llamas, livestock producers have a few more options for guardian animals than dogs, one of which is donkeys, which have a proven track record of protection, are available cheaply or even free (in the west the BLM will give you as many as you want just so they don't have to slaughter them) and are not an exotic South American camelid. Cheers!
posted by seasparrow at 11:41 AM on April 24, 2013


Save the drama for your llama.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:43 AM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Our two llamas have two very different personalities, and often play the good cop, bad cop game.

You have no idea what a delightful image this puts into my head. I'm picturing these Emperor's New Groove style portraits of Mariska Hargitay and Ice-T standing there looking all grumpy at a dog.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:08 PM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


From Slate - Therapy Llamas!
posted by ChuraChura at 4:28 PM on April 24, 2013


seasparrow: "In North America, we already do this with an indigenous animal: Donkeys as guardians"

Yeah, I was just going to mention that. A friend has a B&B here with something of a menagerie with chickens, horses, and a couple goats, and the threat is from packs of dogs, not wolves. Because a large number of the dogs are domestic but simply allowed to roam (this is a rural and somewhat agricultural area), they aren't afraid of people the way coyotes and wolves are, and in packs they overpower the typical guard dogs and will eat small and herd livestock like chickens and goats. Donkeys, on the other hand, are very loyal to other animals, and are big and fearless enough to scare away any dog packs permanently. They don't even come sniffing around after being chased off.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:11 PM on April 24, 2013


But not adult humans.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:10 AM on April 24 [+] [!]


Tell you what. You get rid of all the non-adult humans and get back to me with your take on how the human race is going as a species.

Oh, wait. Someone already did that. It wasn't a Good Thing.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:27 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


You missed Scientist's point, which is that a wolf would size up an adult person and not fight them, even though the wolf might win the fight. We are large and aggressive enough that fighting us would not be worth their time. Maybe this is also what keeps them away from guard Llamas.

Nobody ever said wolves were not a threat to people in general, or that wolves bark stories to each other.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 5:50 PM on April 24, 2013


Just don't use them to guard your cannabis farm, or you'll end up with high llamas yt .

It's better to use bears.
posted by homunculus at 5:54 PM on April 24, 2013


Why alcohol and llamas don't mix.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 8:59 PM on April 24, 2013


For other people intrigued by seasparrow's comment: A Natural History of Domesticated Mammals I love worldcat
posted by hattifattener at 12:04 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lamo the sheep which thinks it's a dog
posted by homunculus at 11:53 AM on April 25, 2013


In other news: Scientists have engineered the world's first glow-in-the dark sheep
posted by homunculus at 1:15 PM on April 29, 2013


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