Part of the Camelidae family, llamas are even-toed ungulates native to South America. They were domesticated 3,800 to 5,000 years ago, and they are no longer found in the wild.
Nevertheless, they still have predators, both in their native range and in all introduced habitats.
Llama predators include cougars, coyotes, and ocelots, a type of wild cat native to South America. In introduced habitats, llamas are often targeted by wolves, bears, dingoes, dogs, and even lynxes. Most of these predators go after baby llamas, which are more vulnerable. As adults, llamas are aggressive animals that can actually protect sheep and other livestock from predators.
Here is a quick list of all known llama predators:
- Snow leopards
Natural Llama Predators
Llamas are ungulates native to South America. Their geographic range spans throughout the Andean highlands, from southeast Peru to western Bolivia.
Things are different as far as Andean pumas are concerned. Mountain lions (cougars) – like all other big cats – are carnivores and prefer larger prey.
Andean cougars typically prey on vicuñas and guanacos, which are two wild species of the llama family and ancestors of alpacas.
Pumas usually avoid human settlements. However, they can sometimes take advantage of herds, attacking livestock such as sheep, goats, and llamas.
Another common predator of llamas in South America is the ocelot, a wild cat found in most geographic ranges on the continent.
Aside from pumas and ocelots – and sometimes wild dogs – however, llamas don’t have other natural predators in their native habitat.
Llamas are large ungulates that grow to a shoulder height of almost four feet and weigh around 250 pounds. They have mild temperaments toward humans but have strong protective instincts.
Like most ungulates, llamas are social animals and can become aggressive towards predators that threaten their herds.
The protective instinct extends to other animals llamas live with, and in many parts of the world, they are used as guard animals to protect cattle, sheep, goats, and poultry from predators.
In Central America, llama predators include coyotes.
Llama Predators In Introduced Habitats
While llamas are native to South America, globalization has led to their introduction in various geographic ranges. These mammals are now found all over the world, with few exceptions.
In all introduced geographic ranges, llamas are kept as livestock, or they are found in zoos or as pets.
One feral population of llamas established itself in Central Italy after escaping a zoo in 2016; however, this population hasn’t thrived in the wild – in 2020, the herd consisted of only three individuals.
In areas where llamas are kept in captivity, they can be subject to local predators known to target pets or livestock.
Llama Predators In Asia
Asia has many dangerous predators, including tigers and lions. However, these species rarely target livestock, and they are not known to feed on llamas.
A common llama predator in Asia is the snow leopard, a wild cat species that often attack livestock.
Llama Predators In Australia
The second-largest producer of beef in the world, Australia has a lively agricultural and rural life. The country’s most iconic flocks are cattle and sheep.
However, farmers also grow llamas for their fleece, and many keep llamas – together with alpacas – as guard animals.
Due to their size, adult llama predation in Australia is rare. However, dingoes and wild dogs that go after sheep or calves can sometimes kill and feed on baby llamas.
Llama Predators In Europe
Farmers in Europe also grow llamas for their wool. However, the use of llamas in Europe is slightly different than in Australia.
Most llamas on the Old Continent are kept for hobby purposes (pets), breeding, trekking, therapy, or landscape conservation.
With the exception of a small feral population in Central Italy, all llamas in Europe are domestic.
However, llama farms are typically located in rural landscapes where they can become targets for wolves, brown bears, and even lynxes – even though llamas, in Europe too, are often used as guard animals to protect livestock from lynxes.
Llama Predators In North America
Similar to Asia, Australia, and Europe, llamas were introduced to North America for breeding, farming, or recreational purposes.
Like Europe, North America is home to numerous predators that could attack llamas in rural areas.
Wolves are the most common llama predators in North America, taking advantage of llama farms for easy food access. Similarly, coyotes living near human settlements may attack llamas or calves present in llama farms.
Grizzly bears don’t normally approach human settlements. However, grizzlies are sometimes suspected of killing livestock – including llamas.
Stray dogs – and even dogs kept as pets – are other potential predators. In North Carolina, for instance, a stray dog pack was signaled for killing goats and a llama.
Like the Andean mountain lions, cougars in North America prey on llamas – and they can return to the same site over and over again.
Do Llamas Keep Predators Away?
Llamas have a number of predators; nevertheless, they are often used as guard animals thanks to their skills of keeping predators away.
The main advantage of llamas is their size. That alone enables a llama to keep a predator away.
However, llamas rarely live alone. Like most herbivores, they are social animals and live in herds.
In situations where they are used as guard animals, the natural flocking instinct of llamas determines them to “adopt” the other animals, including livestock and pets.
When a predator approaches the herd, llamas become aggressive and tend to attack.
However, this doesn’t mean that they can keep all predators away. Scientists found that llamas are most effective in keeping away canine predators, including wolves, coyotes, and wild or stray dogs.
How Do Llamas Protect Livestock From Predators?
Llamas are social animals, and they bond with sheep, goats, poultry, and even pets.
As ungulates, llamas are naturally alert and aware of their surroundings. When sensing danger, they generally make startling sounds that alert the other animals in the flock.
They also chase the intruder, spitting at or kicking it.
In most cases, the vocal alarm is loud enough to alert the farmers of the presence of predators.
Llamas are ungulates native to South America. However, they were domesticated thousands of years ago, and they are extinct in the wild.
Nevertheless, llamas have predators in all geographic ranges where they live. Coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, and bears are the main llama predators in North America. Mountain lions and ocelots represent the main predators in llamas’ native habitat – the Andes.
In Europe and Australia, llama predators include wolves, bears, lynxes, and dingoes and wild dogs respectively.