“We’ve seen these [llamas] successfully used in the Scottish Highlands keeping off foxes, and in an American study they reduced sheep kills from dogs and coyotes by 66 per cent; half of those farms saw predation stop entirely.”
Today we are bringing you an epic showdown — get ready to place your bets on our contenders.
In this corner we have the Eurasian lynx! And in this corner we have…
Yes, the rest of this story is exactly as weird as the set up promises.
Here’s the deal. The Lynx Trust of Britain would like to reintroduce the wild cats to parts of England and the Scottish Highlands. They’ve applied for a permit to do so and everything. They think the lynx could help reduce the deer population. They also think the possibility of spotting a wild lynx would make the areas popular with tourists.
Sheep farmers disagree. They think lynx would reduce the sheep population because lynx are predators and sheep are lunch. Given the remote location of the areas proposed for reintroduction and the dependence of the populations there on sheep farming, adding in animals that kill sheep is a real concern.
Enter the llamas.
The Lynx Trust has developed a whole plan to reassure farmers that their fields aren’t about to become an all-lynx-can-eat lamb chop buffet. They promise to provide grants to build fencing around fields. They’d track the lynxes to see where they go and what they kill and eat so they could predict and mitigate damage. And they propose offering farmers protector animals to guard the flocks. Specifically, llamas.
Chief scientific advisor to the Trust, Dr Paul O’Donoghue says, “We’ve seen these successfully used in the Scottish Highlands keeping off foxes, and in an American study they reduced sheep kills from dogs and coyotes by 66 per cent; half of those farms saw predation stop entirely.”
I always knew llamas were rumored to be ill-tempered and that a kick from a llama could do some damage. I had no idea llamas could be used as protectors for other livestock. But apparently some llamas can be effective at this task. Gelded male llamas will bond with a flock of livestock and take on a protector role, though — gelded or not — they sometimes try to hump smaller animals and smother them.
Female llamas are now recommended instead to prevent this issue.
Though llamas have killed animals like coyotes, that’s not their principal method for guarding. They usually make noise when a predator appears, and walk or run toward it to menace it away. Kicking is also a guarding behavior.
Would a llama really take out a lynx? The Lynx Trust says yes, but sheep farmers remain unconvinced. While no ruling has been made on lynx or llama introduction, the winner of this battle royale may end up being the sheep that fuel the local economy and many a Sunday dinner.