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Showing posts from 2022

Llamas, the Ultimate Backcountry Hiking Partner?

Llamas, the Ultimate Backcountry Hiking Partner? Go further, stay longer and hike harder with your 300 pound (llama) hiking partner! Llamas have been raised in South America for centuries as pack animals. The packing ability of llamas combined with their ease of transport enables them to be utilized in a wide variety of situations and makes them ideal for packing. They are popular with hikers and hunters on longer overnight trips because they can carry most or all of the gear. Advantages There are many advantages to using llamas over other types of pack animals. Llamas do not have hooves. They have two-toed padded feet with a toenail which grows over the top of each toe. This makes them very sure-footed. The pads do much less damage to the environment because they do not tear into and dent the ground the way hooves can. For this reason, llamas are often allowed on trails where horses are prohibited Llamas are browsers, not grazers, and can eat various plants while movin

The American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners (AASRP) issues policy statement that opposes banning camelid pack animals on public lands

The American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners (AASRP), issued the following policy statement in February 2020. This policy statement comes from a professional association of approximately 1000 U.S. practicing, research, and regulatory veterinarians charged with protecting and guarding the health of the domestic and wild species. They understand better than anyone the disease interactions of each species both within and across species lines.  AASRP Policy Statement Concerning Camelid Pack Animal Disease Risk: There exists concern that the entry of camelid pack animals (llamas, alpacas) onto public lands poses a potential risk of disease to resident endangered or threatened ungulate populations including Boreal Caribou, Northern Mountain Caribou, Central Mountain Caribou, Southern Mountain Caribou, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat, Dall’s Sheep, Stone’s Sheep and Roosevelt Elk. The diseases of concern by National Parks and wildlife managers include: Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, Mannh

Precautionary Principle and Pack Llamas

The "precautionary principle" originated as a strategy to deal with possible risks where scientific understanding/study was not yet complete (i.e. nano technology and genetically modified foods.) However, the precautionary principle (precautionary approach) has also been used by policy makers to justify discretionary decisions in situations where there is a possibility of harm from making a certain decision when they deem there is inadequate scientific knowledge. Why Should I Care? The danger is that a precautionary (no risk) principle/approach fails to recognize there is no such thing as zero risk. For example, a scientific risk assessment recognizes the existence of "risk" and attempts to quantify it. The objective is to determine the likelihood of something happening and the consequences. Although science can provide a high level of confidence it can never provide absolute certainty. The precautionary principle places an impossible burden of proof on the us

Pack Llamas on Alaska's Public Lands

Lost Lake Trail - Chugach National Forest, Alaska Pack llamas have historically played an important role on our public lands by both recreational and commercial users.  Low environmental impact has long been recognized as the pack llama’s advantage over traditional pack animals. For example, llamas do not have hooves but instead a leathery pad on the bottom of their foot. (The print left in the soil is quite similar in appearance to that of an elk or deer.) Llama foot anatomy allows it's foot to spread on soft ground, thereby distributing weight over a larger area. Llamas are much smaller than most equine pack stock with the average pack llama weighing between 300-400 pounds.”  Therefore it comes as no surprise that these sure-footed pack animals are used by public agencies for trail and park maintenance as they are in Rocky Mountain National Park. However, there has been a campaign of misinformation by special interest groups and subsequent proposals by government agencies to ban

The Canadian Papers - "Smoke and Mirrors?"

Canadian hypothetical risk assessments have been and are being used as a basis for banning pack llamas on public lands by various government agencies. Do they "pass muster" and are they based on science? Let's take a closer look. It was stated during the August 5, 2021 BLM Virtual Meeting by BLM biologist (Jim Herriges) that BLM’s decision to prohibit pack llamas is based on Canadian hypothetical “Risk Assessments.”  I’d like to point out that the authors of these Canadian papers state (1) “…there is insufficient data available to clearly assess the role of camelids as a source of disease at this time…..” and (2) “Risks from camelids to wildlife in British Columbia remain hypothetical after this risk assessment, as no direct evidence was found to implicate camelids as sources of significant diseases in wildlife in BC or elsewhere.”  So by their own admission, the authors conclude camelid disease transmission is hypothetical and based on conjecture (not science) Furthermor

Alaskan Hiking Groups

Get out and enjoy Alaska's long summer days with a hike. To find a hiking buddy, here's a list of Alaska hiking groups compiled from various Facebook posts, meetup groups and websites. The groups range from easy family-friendly to more challenging for experienced hikers. Some welcome anyone; others are women only and are geared for various ability levels. I included website and/or Facebook links if available. If you know of others, just send me a message and I will include. FOR EVERYONE, VARIOUS ABILITIES Anchorage Trail Walkers   - Website says: "We get out 2-3 times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during the day, usually at 10am." Kenai Peninsula Outdoor club on Meetup  (Very active - open to all Alaska Outdoors As per website, hosts 2 hikes on Monday and Thursday year around. FOR WOMEN, VARIOUS ABILITY LEVELS Alaskan Wild Women Hiking & Backpacking Grou

Did You Know (DYK) - Llamas Have Fighting Teeth?

Because llamas are herbivores, which means they eat exclusively plant materials such as grass, hay, shrubs - their teeth are mainly designed for crushing, grinding, and juicing their food. They do not feed on meat and other tough materials like nuts or shells.  Llamas use their teeth the same way goats, cows, camels and sheep do. They cut grass from the ground using their sharp-edged incisors and dental pad, tear them, and push them towards the cheek teeth or the grinding teeth to further be chewed. Llamas are not true ruminants but are “pseudo ruminants” even though they have a similar digestive system as that of ruminants. Like ruminants, llamas are often spotted chewing because they regurgitate their food and chew it repeatedly before digesting. Llamas and alpacas are camelids, and camelids do not have front teeth in their upper jaws. This is why when you take a closer look at a chewing llama, you will notice that only its lower jaw has visible teeth. In place of the upper front tee

Hike the Root Glacier - Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Why I Like This Hike: Non-technical glacier hike suitable for most skill levels with great views of Mt. Blackburn, Regal Mountain, and Donaho Peak. This trail is generally rated easy / intermediate due to its grade and creek crossings. You can safely hike the glacier on your own with micro-spikes (or take the glacier tour and they will provide crampons.) This is an incredible glacier hike and well worth it if you (and your vehicle) can survive the drive from Chitna, Google Maps Driving Directions -  Kennecott-McCarthy Directions to McCarthy Road & Kennecott Note: This trail departs from Kennecott Mill Town and you must access Kennecott from McCarthy by either walking the road between McCarthy and Kennecott (an extra 4.5 miles), taking the commercial shuttle, or riding a bike.  If you plan to take the shuttle (recommended) be sure to check the schedule as it operates seasonally.  According to the NPS website:  There are 3 shuttle companies providing services between the pedestria

FAQ - Do Llamas Attract Bears?

Bear Busters! "Do llamas attract bears?" This is a frequently asked question (FAQ), especially during the summer months. Bears have been known to attack llamas but our experience has been that llamas don't attract bears anymore than other pets or pack stock. 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 YouTube link to hear our Raul llama making an alarm call -  Llama Alarm Call   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. Even in

Rabbit Lake via Upper Canyon Rd.

Why I Like This Hike: This is a quintessential Alaskan hike, family friendly and suitable for most skill levels. It's about 4.4 miles to Rabbit Lake, a large beautiful alpine lake some 3,000 feet above sea level in the shadow of 5,000-foot Suicide peaks. Once at the lake, the hiker has a number of options including hiking, camping and climbing nearby peaks. This trek is a short drive from Anchorage and can be hiked in all seasons depending on weather. Google Driving Directions:   Rabbit Lake Trailhead This hike is extremely popular during the summer so be advised that parking can be very limited at the Upper Canyon Road trailhead.   Overview: There are two main routes to  Rabbit Lake , the easier is from Upper Canyon Road off DeArmoun. The longer and steeper route starts from the McHugh Creek trailhead. You can hike to Rabbit Lake in a day (out and back) from either trailhead or as a one-way "through" hike. This post will describe the day hike from the Upper Canyon Road t