Date of Award:

1997

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Natural Resources

Department name when degree awarded

Fisheries and Wildlife

Advisor/Chair:

Frederick F. Knowlton

Abstract

Canid predation poses a serious threat to the sheep industry in the United States. Llamas are becoming popular among livestock producers as part of their predation management programs but there is little information on the factors associated with llama guarding behavior. This study examined several physical and behavioral attributes of individual llamas to assess whether they might predict the aggressiveness llamas display coward canids. The study was conducted in three phases. The first involved determining some physical and behavioral traits of individual llamas. Twenty individuals were randomly assigned to one of four groups (n = 5/group) and frequencies with which animals initiated and responded to various behaviors, e.g., dominance, aggression, threats, subordination, leadership, and alertness, were documented using focal-group sampling. Individuals were then ranked according to the frequency with which they displayed each behavior. In the second phase, activity patterns of individual llamas with sheep were assessed. Lamas varied in how close to sheep they stayed (mean = 48.2 m I 3.5) as we 1 as in the way they distributed their activities. The third phase examined interactions among llamas, sheep, and a domestic sheep dog to assess their individual aggressiveness toward canids.

Llamas varied in the degree of aggressiveness displayed toward the dog; some chased the dog, others ran from it, some stayed with the flock, and others did not. Llamas were ranked based on these responses. Llamas with top ranks were curious and chased the dog, but stayed close to the sheep. Bottom-ranked individuals ignored the sheep and ran from the dog. Physical and behavioral traits of llamas and their behavioral patterns with sheep were then compared with aggressiveness they displayed toward the dog. Leadership and alert behaviors were correlated with aggressiveness (r = 0.472, p = 0.064 and r = 0.607, p = 0.012, respectively) Weight of llamas was also correlated with aggressiveness (r = 0.475, p = 0.039). Llama coloration was associated with aggressiveness they displayed toward the dog (X2 = 6.003, df = 2, p = 0.049), however, color was also associated with the weight of llamas (X2 = 7.49, df = 2, p = 0.024). Traits correlated with llama aggressiveness are easily recognized and sheep producers interested in acquiring a llama should consider them when selecting livestock guardians.

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