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Exotic imports make a local appearance: Llamas on the loose

TOWNER, N.D. - These days, you never know what kind of livestock might wander into your yard. Most days, it's just a stray horse or a few fence crawling cows. Last week, we were visited by a couple of llamas out roaming the neighborhood. Llamas, ...

TOWNER, N.D. - These days, you never know what kind of

livestock might wander into your yard. Most days, it's just a stray horse or a few fence crawling cows.

Last week, we were visited by a couple of llamas out roaming the neighborhood. Llamas, you may or may not know, are South American camelids who originated in North America 40 million years ago.

About a year ago, they migrated back to our part of North America via a local sale barn, an exotic animal sale and a neighbor's hired man with an itchy bidding finger. He must have figured they were going too cheap. He came home with eight or 10 of them.

I've been tempted with livestock auction bargains myself, but I've never brought anything home more exotic than a pair of Belgian draft horse colts.

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He took them to his boss' ranch, threw open the trailer gate and proclaimed them to be the new guard animals for calving season. Personally, all my cows are mean enough to chase off their own coyotes, but llamas have a reputation for canine hate that might be helpful to more timid bovines.

New neighbors

My first contact with the local llama herd was along our adjoining fenceline when I was riding pastures on my horse one day.

My gelding and I topped a little rise along the fence and found ourselves face to face with one of these South American imports.

My horse was more than a little surprised by the encounter. If I hadn't been sitting deep in the saddle when he jumped sideWays, I'd have looked like the cartoon Wile E. Coyote in midair holding a sign that said "Uh oh" and waiting for gravity to take hold, a crash and a puff of dust.

The llama followed me along the fence for a half mile or so. Being a savvy stockman, I deduced that this one was an intact male when I saw him from behind. That may have explained why he was a little aggressive, stopping every now and then to hiss at me.

A little-known fact about llamas is that they breed lying down. So I did my best to make sure my horse didn't lie down in sight of this male.

He finally went back to his llama friends and my neighbor's cows.

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Exotic visitorsI hadn't though much about them again until two of the critters came trotting down the road to our ranch yard.

When I called my neighbor, he said we could keep them or shoot them. Apparently, he'd had his fill of llama ranching in the past year.

I contemplated roping them - after all, they're mostly neck. If you can't catch a long-necked llama, you're not trying very hard. Of course, I didn't know what I'd do with them once I caught them.

I've heard stories about their spitting ability. The last thing I wanted was to have a llama on the end of my rope and have him turn around and launch a wad of llama spit at me.

Luckily, I didn't have to rope them, chase them or get in a spitting contest with them.

My mother thought they were making a move toward her garden, so she grabbed a hoe, took a few steps toward them, questioned their parentage and told them to "shoo."

We haven't seen them since. Smart llamas.

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