Nova Scotia

Llamas can be an effective coyote deterrent, Nova Scotia farmer says

Four llamas are on guard duty at a farm in South Rawdon, N.S., protecting 100 sheep from hungry coyotes.

Inside the fluffy body of a llama beats the heart of a warrior

Bob Ottenbrite and one of his four llamas. He says they're cuddly with people but fierce with coyotes. (Moira Donovan/CBC)

Coyotes, beware of llamas.

There's a fierceness to the fluffy animals if you look past their sleepy eyes and friendly demeanour, says one Nova Scotia farmer. They're so fierce, he's using llamas to protect his flock of sheep from wild predators. 

Farmer Bob Ottenbrite says Crystal, a white llama he owns, would give you a kiss if you approached her. 

"But if you get anything that looks like a coyote in there, they change instantly." 

That's right—inside that fluffy body beats the heart of a warrior. 

'They'll charge after them'

Should a coyote be foolish enough to enter the pasture that houses Ottenbrite's 100 sheep and four guard llamas, they'll bite off more than they can chew. 

The llamas act in concert when danger's afoot. One will herd the sheep into a tight group, another stands watch for other predators while the remaining llamas square off against the intruder. 

Ottenbrite originally tried to use donkeys to protect his flock of sheep but they didn't work out. He says the llamas are the right mix of gentle with the sheep and aggressive toward predators. (Moira Donovan/CBC)

"They'll charge after them. The neck is extended, held very low to the ground and if the animal doesn't run away they will strike out at them with their front toes," said Ottenbrite. 

"They're very sharp and they're very, very powerful and they can do a lot of damage."

Coyotes a real threat

In most cases the llamas succeed in driving off coyotes, along with foxes, raccoons and skunks. 

"If the sheep stay within the fence, the llamas do a 100 per cent job of keeping them safe," Ottenbrite said. 

"But if they happen to get through a fence somehow, the coyotes are waiting for them."

Last year Ottenbrite lost 15 sheep to coyote attacks. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Ottenbrite said 15 sheep from his farm in South Rawdon, N.S. were eaten by coyotes last year when they escaped their enclosure. A pack of coyotes even killed a 1,200-pound cow that lived nearby. 

In 2015, Ottenbrite trapped 12 large coyotes in the area.

Llamas better guardians than donkey

Originally, Ottenbrite tried using donkeys to protect his sheep but sold them because the donkeys were too aggressive with the ewes.

He said the llamas are the perfect fit, and they have a strong attachment to the sheep.   

"Usually they say just have one [llama], but I think with a large pack one llama would be at a great disadvantage and they might be taken down," said Ottenbrite. 

"When they can work together as a group and they know their job it's wonderful." 

With files from Moira Donovan