While alpacas and llamas are great pets who can be great guard animals, they are right in the middle of the food chain. This means that they are still vulnerable to predator attacks. So let’s talk about alpacas, llamas, and predators you need to worry about in depth.
Alpacas and llamas can protect themselves and their herds from smaller predators, whether singular or in a small pack. They may also be able to scare off a singular, larger predator. Camelids need a fence and protection from large predators, especially those in packs.
If you own these camelids as pets or protectors, then it is important that you know the role you play in ensuring their safety. But don’t worry – as long as you’ve got a decently predator-proof fence, then it isn’t too intensively hands-on.
And having the llamas and alpacas? Well, they’re an awesome addition to any backyard homestead. And I’ve seen some studies from years back that showed that camelid defenders could help livestock loss to predators fall from more than 20% down to about 7% if memory serves. So let’s talk about all things alpacas, llamas, and predators.
Are Alpacas and Llamas Safe from Predators?
Alpacas and Llamas are not completely safe from predators. These herbivorous defenders and lovable pets can ward off smaller-sized predators through spitting, kicking, and braying but they are typically no match for large-sized carnivores.
Below you would find a list of common llama and alpaca predators and other important information you’d need to know about them.
If you want the simple version, here it is in a table. We’ll go into more detail in a moment.
|Predator||Predator: a Pack Animal?||Predator VS Camelid Winner|
|Coyotes||Sometimes||Alpacas and Llamas|
|Foxes||Sometimes||Alpacas and Llamas|
|Large wild cats|
(cougars, mountain lions)
|No||Cougar or Mountain Lion|
|Small wild cats|
|No||Alpacas and Llamas|
Bears and Camelids
Preparation and protection are going to be the key here because once a bear gets to an alpaca or llama? The bear’s going to win.
The American Black Bear is the most common type of bear in North America. Contrary to its name, this animal can be in various shades of black, brown, and white. This bear, the grizzly bear, and the North American brown bear are known to prey on livestock – including llamas and alpacas.
- Protect your alpacas and llamas from bear attacks by using predator-proof fencing along with your property and/or paddock lines.
- Refrain from leaving your camelids tied up and unattended if you’re outside of a fence.
- Be extra cautious with any livestock while in known bear country.
If you must take your camelids on camping trips, walks, or hikes make sure you have some bear spray and/or other protective gear on you.
Using a rifle or handgun to protect your camelids from these animals can also be effective, as long as you remember two things.
- Some bears are on various protected lists due to being endangered. Shooting any endangered species is prohibited unless it’s self-defense. Even then, it’s probably going to be a major legal issue.
- It’s illegal to hunt bears in many US states.
Be prepared for bears – especially if you live in an area where there are bears.
Snakes, Alpacas, and Llamas
Non-poisonous snakes aren’t a problem; poisonous snakes are the problem. Keep safe snakes around and ward off the dangerous ones.
Llamas and alpacas are super inquisitive creatures. If they saw a new creature, then chances are they would mindlessly approach it and lower their heads to inspect it. This is a problem if the creature in question is a poisonous snake, which would then lead to a lethal bite to the muzzle or mouth.
The scenario I just painted is quite common with camelids and poisonous snakes. If quick action isn’t taken and treatment isn’t administered, then your alpaca or llama can die soon after.
Lots of alpacas and llamas have been lost to snakebites, specifically rattlesnake bites. You can lower your chances of suffering such a loss by knowing the following points.
- Know what snake bit your animal and where the bite is.
- If you ever suspect a poisonous snake bite, call your vet immediately.
Some camelid owners have reported success in saving their animals by making sure to do two more things. I haven’t personally tried these things, but they do line up with the people-based medicine I used while working as a nurse in emergency medicine.
- If your camelid ever gets bitten on the muzzle by a snake, get two round hair curlers and insert them into its nose. This is to ensure that its airways remain open during the swelling. You might have to use some tape to hold it in place.
- Provide your animal with some food and water and get it eaten and drank. Doing this would help flush its system and dilute the toxins.
- These tips are to be applied before a vet gets on the scene or while you’re trying to get your alpaca or llama to a veterinary clinic.
Again, I haven’t used these tips, but I’ve seen them in my research.
Prevention is going to be key here. In my area, most venomous snakes stick to the mountains or other areas where there aren’t other snakes already.
So, if you can keep a few “safe” garden snakes in your yard? That’ll help prevent venomous snakes from moving into your yard. And that can help prevent your camelids from getting a fatal snake bite.
Coyotes and Camelids
Alpacas and llamas can easily chase off a single, fully-grown coyote. It gets more questionable if the coyotes are in a pack.
Coyotes are undeniably the most notorious livestock predators. As a matter of fact, more than half of livestock losses are attributed to these pesky animals. They can easily target baby alpacas and llamas, but not so much for the fully grown ones.
When coyotes hunt in packs, though, they can do a lot more damage than you think.
Thankfully, though, packs of coyotes aren’t super common – at least not in my experience. The biggest group of coyotes I’ve ever personally seen is two. And that was on an empty lot in a city. So, a larger pack in a rural area isn’t unthinkable.
Foxes, Alpacas, and Llamas
Of all the wild dogs of North America, foxes have to be the smallest, these mammals are one of the most widespread and exist in four different species in the US namely; the red, the kit, the gray, and the arctic.
Foxes do not normally attack or kill alpacas or llamas. When they do decide to attack, they usually go for crias or baby alpacas
Wolves versus Camelids
Protect camelids from wolves with fences and guard animals. Wolves will kill and eat camelids if they get the chance.
Alpacas and llamas do not pose huge threats to wolves. Wolves are opportunistic hunters and usually target genetically inferior, sick, or old animals.
Also, when wolves hunt in packs they hunt one kill at a time. These canines don’t usually kill for sport. It’s rare for wolves to kill multiple preys at once.
In the lower 48 states, the US government has lifted federal protections for gray wolves. Even so, it’s probably safer to use preventative measures than protective ones.
Dogs versus Camelids
While most dogs are used for guarding livestock, an out-of-control or feral pack of dogs will ravage livestock. Some dog packs do kill for fun.
This is a sad truth, but the most problematic predators within a backyard homestead type of setting are going to be dogs. They can be a wild group of feral dogs, or they could be a group of neighborhood pets who go crazy in a group.
No matter the source of the dog pack, remember that they can do serious damage to your livestock if they get past the fence. So make sure that the fence is sturdy.
Then make sure you know your local laws about protecting your livestock from pets – and what steps you can take to prevent such a horrible incident from happening.
It might also be wise to look up the local ordinances so that you know what options you have in case the unthinkable does happen, too. This is a very hot topic with a wide range of opinions about how to deal with dogs who get onto your property without permission.
Small Wild Cats (Bobcats and ocelots)
Smaller wild cats primarily prey on animals smaller than themselves, such as rabbits, rats, mice, squirrels, and chickens. Although it is unlikely for these animals to go after alpacas and llamas, it is quite possible, especially if the camelids are protecting a flock of chickens.
These smaller wild cats target larger prey from time to time because it increases the amount of food per effort used. They might not stand a chance against fully grown alpacas and llamas, but they’d most definitely see crias (baby alpacas) as easy prey.
We’ve got bobcats where we live – and while most bobcats are about twice the size of a housecat, they’re still quite nasty when they want to be.
Llamas and Alpacas can also be preyed on by ocelots, although this isn’t common. That’s mostly because ocelots aren’t as common as they once were, though. There are very few wild ocelots anymore. Ocelots are larger spotted wild cats and voracious meat-eaters. Their diet typically consists of deer, rabbits, rodents, fish, and birds.
Ocelots can be found in Louisiana and South Texas up into Arkansas.
I’ve seen small wild cats (bobcats) jump 6-foot tall fences. So while having a predator-proof fence is still important, know that a small wild cat might still get in anyway.
In that case, walk your fence regularly. Your scent (and that of other guard animals) will help deter these small predators.
Large Wild Cats (Cougars, mountain lions, etc.)
Large wild cats will prey on any alpaca or llama they can catch, and they have been known to prey on healthy adult camelids both in the wild and among livestock populations.
Cougars, pumas, mountain lions, and panthers all occasionally prey on livestock. These ferocious felines are common predators in llama and alpaca pastures located in the western region of the USA, or anywhere these felines are found.
Camelids do not stand a chance against these stealthy carnivores.
Can Llamas and Alpacas Live with Dogs?
Canids are major predators of camelids so it’s no surprise that these territorial animals have developed a strong aversion to anything canine. However, alpacas and llamas can live peacefully with dogs, but you must train both parties beforehand.
If your dog is well-behaved and can obey simple commands, then you’re off to an easy start in training these animals to live together peacefully.
The first thing you should do to achieve a peaceful coexistence between these animals is to introduce them to one another. Make sure your dog is on a leash and well-behaved while your camelids are tied down in a confined area. Then proceed to allow them to smell each other’s scents, this is crucial for the familiarization or bonding process to kick off.
Once you have done the above, gradually increase their proximity and the duration of time they spend together. Cooing or cheering positive words and setting boundaries is important in keeping the training under control.
You’d need to pay close attention to the way your dog interacts with your alpaca or llama the first couple of weeks, a concerning behavior you should look out for is, if your dog is barking when it’s not been given a task, this could seriously stress your camelids out.
Also, if you’re looking to get crias (or baby alpacas), it’s important that you know that your dogs’ natural predatory instincts would probably kick in around them. So, you need to be extra careful and rigid when trying to introduce your dog to a baby camelid.
Generally, it’s not so hard to tell if your dog and your llama or alpaca are getting along, you’d see your dog wagging its tail excitedly, and you’d also see them resting together, following each other, and playing.
If you want to read more about keeping dogs with camelids, make sure you read my article on keeping alpacas with dogs here: Are Alpacas OK with Dogs?
Predators that Alpacas and Llamas Will Chase Away
Camelids make super-efficient guard animals, they’d ward off coyotes, foxes, weasels, and any other smaller animal threatening their charge. But they’re not so strong when they’re faced with a pack of smaller predators or larger predators (alone or in a pack).
When these guard animals spot a threat or an intruder, they’d let out a cry of alarm before charging toward the predator and kicking or pawing at it.
Often, llamas wouldn’t kill a predator, but they will chase it away. However, if they feel threatened, they won’t hesitate to trample a predator to death.
If you want to keep alpacas or llamas as guard animals, make sure you read my article on how they guard sheep here: Here’s How Alpacas Guard Sheep and Lambs.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Llamas and Alpacas?
Other than actively protecting your llama yourself, there are other ways to ensure the safety of your livestock and guard animals, below you would find a couple of things you can do to prevent or cut down on predator attacks.
Tip #1: Use Fencing and Other Security Measures
Erecting a tall and well-secured fence would help in keeping predators off your property. You can combine this preventative method with other security measures such as electrified fence sections, water sprinklers, and motion sensors that trigger loud music or flashing lights.
With these measures in place, losses because of predator attacks can be managed and reduced significantly.
Want to read about keeping coyotes out with electric fencing? I’ve got an article for you here: Do Electric Fences Keep Coyotes Out?
Tip #2: Keep it Clean
You must not unintentionally feed predators. By cleaning your property regularly, you can keep this from happening. Make sure you dispose of all wastes properly in your garbage can. Don’t leave your trash can open, and always bring your pet’s food inside.
Refrain from adding meat, unrinsed eggshells, fat, fish, oil, or any cooked food to your compost.
Both natural and chemical repellents are also good at keeping predators out of your yard or off your property, feel free to mix and match these measures if you feel that’d give you the best results.
Oh, and another reason to clean your property is this: that way, predators don’t have anywhere to hide. That way, you can prevent an ambush attack on your livestock.
Tip #3: Use Grooming as an Advantage
It’s important that you shorn your guard alpacas or llamas less frequently than you would your pet dog. This is because size is very crucial in scaring off predators, so an unshorn camelid can look menacing to intruders.
The extra fiber would also help protect your llama or alpaca from coyote or dog bite injuries. Also make sure you trim the hairs around their eyes this would help them have a clear vision, which is essential in their guarding or protecting of livestock.
Llamas and alpacas make super dutiful and endearing pets and protectors.
You might think introducing more than a couple of camelids to your homestead or farm would help maximize their efficiency in guarding or protecting a charge, but this is surprisingly not the case. Research has shown that these intriguing animals work best as guardians when they work singularly (or in a group of 2) than when they are in larger groups.
Several male llamas or alpacas are most likely going to interact with one another than with your flock. When choosing these guard animals, going for a two-year-old gelded male llama or alpaca is your best bet at preventing predation. Female alpacas or llamas aren’t so bad either.
Introducing your llama to your flock of sheep or goats before lambing takes place is the easiest way to get them bonding. For some reason, their protectiveness kicks in much quicker this way.
And that way, you can have an amazing backyard homestead – complete with alpacas and llamas. But without the predators – because you’re prepared for what could happen and have taken the appropriate steps to prevent livestock losses due to predators.
That doesn’t guarantee accidents won’t happen, but it will help you be prepared as best as you can. And as a backyard homesteader? That’s all we can do. Happy homesteading!
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Learning from your own experience is important, but learning from others is also smart. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- “Guard Llama.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 Aug. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guard_llama.
- Warbington, Martin C. “Protection of Camelids from Predators.” Llama and Alpaca Care, W.B. Saunders, 6 Dec. 2013, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B978143772352600002X.