If any of us humans see something scary or unknown ahead of us we might stop and walk the other way. My dogs would growl or bark or also run the other way! But alpacas have an alarm call. Here is Emmy our eldest alpaca to tell you about their unique screech at danger.
“If we alpacas see something unfamiliar, or that we perceive to be dangerous, we will scream. To you it will sound like the most unusual, loud screech. Unless you’ve spent time with alpacas you will have never heard anything like it! Each of us has our own Alarm Call. Some of us are more likely to be the callers or protectors here at Bewl Rookery: among the girls it will be Priscilla, Lady and Mossy and among the boys Rameses, or Sinatra. But as the boys are in the field next to the girls, they usually leave it to the girls to sound the alarm!
I know that the rest of the pack will recognise my call, as I would recognise theirs, and react immediately. They will follow my gaze and if they can see what I am looking at they will come over, so we are all standing together, facing the threat while we figure out what is going on. There is greater safety in a herd.
As a herd we may first approach the threat to better understand the danger. This is why some people say we are good at protecting chickens. If a fox enters a field nearby we’ll all go over to investigate and foxes don’t like that. Sometimes we have to take other action. Although by nature we are flighty sometimes we will fight, particularly when our young are threatened. Pollyanna had to chase a fox out of the field when it got too close to her Cria recently.
We take it in turns to keep a look out because our ancestors had very real fears of being attacked by wolves in the high mountains of South America. Whilst there is less of a threat here, the instinct is still strong, watching out the whole time. If we are sitting down together we will all be angled to be looking outwards in different directions. If we go to the loo, which we often do together, we will face out. And again, at night one of us will be on duty and on the look-out. We take it in turns to be on duty which is why you should always have a minimum of 3 alpacas otherwise we would be very stressed guarding on our own.
I know Carol thinks it is sometimes a bit ridiculous as the adjacent field often has sheep in and when they return one of us will screech. She thinks maybe we have a short memory but really it is just an instinct thing. We can often be seen stopped and staring at the sheep on the other side of the fence. We know that they are little furry things that can’t hurt us, but we can’t stop ourselves.
Carol and Mark always hear if we are screeching, so can check what is worrying us. If you come to afternoon tea you may hear it too. But we won’t screech at you!”