Friday, May 10, 2019

Bears and Llamas---Deterrent or Attactant?


It's that time of year again and the bears are out and about in southcentral Alaska. When walking or hiking with llamas I'm often asked "Do llamas attract bears?" Bears have been known to attack llamas but my experience has been that llamas don't attract bears anymore than any other pack stock or pets.

In fact the llama's "alarm call" may act as a good deterrent for bears. Llamas are instinctively alert and aware of their surroundings, and usually draw attention to an intruder by making a startling "alarm call" when it senses danger. A llama is usually aware of a bear long before we can see or hear it and will let off their "alarm call" when the unwanted intruder is around. Click on the hyperlink to hear what a llama alarm call sounds like - Llama Alarm Call.

Camping with llamas even helped one couple with their bear anxiety. "But when the only thing shielding us from Mother Nature is a thin layer of opaque fabric, our imaginations run roughshod over rational thought. Bears are the problem. Our fear of bear attacks is equal parts nebulous and irrational. We logically know we’re not going to be eaten by one, but our adrenal glands still need convincing." Read the complete article below.


However, I would not recommend leaving llamas tied out unattended while camping. In that situation llamas would not be able to defend themselves from predators such as bears or even an aggressive dog. There are both brown and black bears in the Anchorage area and our neighborhood (in Eagle River) is no exception. We have used an electric fence for many years that works well to keep the bears and other predators away.

When out in the woods even in the suburban areas around Anchorage, hikers and walkers should always be "bear aware" and take some type of bear deterrent, whether that be bear spray or a gun. The debate goes on as to which is more effective against a bear. Here's an interesting article on the effectiveness of bear spray - The Cold Hard Facts of Bear Deterrents: Bear Spray vs Firearms. And of course no deterrent is effective if not readily available (i.e. stored in your backpack). So whatever you choose as a bear deterrent, be sure you can easily access it when needed. This ADN article provides helpful information on how to effectively use bear spray. How to Use Bear Spray Effectively. 

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game website has some good tips on bear safety when traveling in bear country-
  • Make noise so you don't surprise a bear. Stay alert and look for signs of bears.
  • Never approach or crowd bears; respect their "personal space."
  • Keep food, garbage and other attractants out of reach of bears.
  • Stay calm during a bear encounter, talk and wave your arms. Don't run.
More Reading at these links: