B.C. considers backcountry llama ban, despite breeder's concerns

Enthusiasts of llama packing, an activity where people bring pack llamas along on excursions into the backcountry, are worried about a proposal that may ban the activity during certain times of the year.

Some people use llamas to help carry their gear while hiking and camping

The B.C. government is considering a ban on llamas that would prevent people from taking them on hikes in the backcountry. (Getty Images)

Enthusiasts of llama packing, an activity in which they are used as pack-animals for backcountry excursions, are worried about a proposal that may ban the activity during certain times of the year.

The B.C. government is considering a proposal that will ban llamas from the backcountry in the name of protecting wild sheep and goats from disease.

Large die-offs of wild sheep as a result of contact with domestic sheep have been well documented in recent years, but one llama advocate says there is no direct link between llamas and sickness in wild animals.

"In over 40 years there has never been one documented incident of a llama transmitting any disease to wildlife," said Bev Henry, who has bred llamas for more than a decade.

The Barriere resident said pack llamas have allowed her to continue hiking for years despite her elderly age. She currently owns three llamas.

She believes the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations is being overly cautious.

"They were labelled as high-risk anyway because, gosh golly, we don't know enough about them."

The ministry is expected to make a decision on the proposal in the next two months, a spokesperson told CBC by email.

Hunting concerns

While the majority of camelids (llamas and alpacas) in B.C. are raised for their soft coat, a 2003 report by the Ministry found that one-third of camelid owners surveyed used their animals for trekking purposes.

Henry believes there may be more to the move to ban llama packing than a concern for wildlife. That's because the proposal specifies that ban would be in place during hunting season.

In the U.S. some hunters have been using llamas instead of ATVs to pack their kills out of the woods.

Guide Outfitters Association of British Columbia (GOABC) did not return CBC's calls for comment.

With files from CBC Radio's Daybreak Kamloops

To listen to the full interview, click the link labelled: No more llama packing in B.C. backcountry if ministry approves ban.


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