Humans aren’t the only visitors!

Do the High Park llamas get visits from other animals? Two years ago, I witnessed a muskrat entering the llama enclosure. The llamas had spotted her running alongside the fence and ran over. The herd was all excited, tails up and ears alert. When the muskrat slipped under the gate, they gave her an enthusiastic welcome and followed the muskrat until it found ‘safety’ in the pond. The llamas eventually lost interest, and the muskrat left through a hole in the back of the fencing. Had the muskrat visited before? I would like to think it did.

I was reminded of this event when I saw Tamara Shena’s video showing llamas checking out a raccoon walking past their enclosure. Again, the llamas were very curious. However, the raccoon did not enter and merely trotted by. And what about coyotes? They are in the park, and I have seen them in the zoo, trotting along as if they own the place. The llamas don’t seem to be bothered. Is this because they perceive them as just another dog? What if the coyotes come at night? Do the llamas respond differently? Do they then put out an alarm call and guard at the fence line? Llamas are guard animals and are often used to protect sheep and alpacas from coyotes. Although as the fencing at the zoo is coyote-proof, perhaps they sense they have nothing to worry about. Or perhaps they only guard when there are crias in the herd?

There are also birds that fly into the enclosure to help themselves to the food. As a cria, Jet would chase after pigeons. One quiet morning, a child asked her mother “why can the llama chase pigeons and I can’t?”. The mother looked at me and we both laughed at this excellent question. However, in contrast to their alarm when pursued by children, the pigeons seemed unbothered by Jet’s approach. Sometimes, she would gently touch the pigeon with her nose.

Figure 1 – Jet nuzzling a pigeon

One afternoon I was sitting on a bench when all the llamas ran to the fence. What’s up, I thought? And then the sound of horses’ hooves on the pavement reached my ears. The llamas had spotted the mounted police long before I did. They are here! As if they were watching a parade pass by. Lima slowly looked up at one; she jumped back! Those horses are massive!

This past Fall (2020), the llamas moved to a temporary home beside the yak enclosure. The yaks and the llamas each actively checked each other out. Jazz, crai, approached the yaks with her neck and head down in a submissive posture. Tango, Jazz’s mother, showed more alertness, her ears cupped forward, though her slightly bowed neck and head demonstrated she too posed no threat.

Figure 2 Tango and Jazz checking out the yak

It has been a delight to watch these encounters, as the llamas are always curious and excited. I, too, am curious to know if they form a lasting bond with their neighbours and the visiting animals.

Here are the links to the muskrat video and the raccoon video