There's nothing more powerful...a picture paints a thousand words!

Mountain Lion attacks in Nevada County, Ca.
Submitted by Jan Pellizzer, Grass Valley, CA on Nov. 6, 2006

This is another testament to the generosity and compassion that is shared amongst those in the llama community… I have never been associated with a better group of people.

We are a small ranch, 5 acres, in the Sierra foothills - half way between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. Lots of horses, cows, llamas, goats and sheep surround us, as well as fruit orchards, wineries and recreational lakes. Other than the occasional yipping of a coyote pack or a lone coyote wandering down our road, we hadn’t seen or heard of any large predators in our area. The coyotes and neighborhood dogs seemed happy to stay out of the fields with the big llamas living there. Our 6 llamas, 7 goats, chickens and dogs all lived with us in peace and tranquility for six years, up until May of this year.

That day in May, I was late getting up to feed the animals and clean out the shelter -- up I go, saying hi to everyone until I notice that Rosie the pygora goat is missing. She was the most mischievous of my bunch of goats, always looking for a way to get ‘out’ or ‘under’ or ‘over’. Since it was so unusual to have a goat wander away from their llama and goat herd, I thought she got out through a fence into a neighboring property. Down at the furthest corner of the property near the fence, I found Rosie. My loving, sweet, caramel fleeced goat that loved to be brushed and rubbed my legs like a cat. She had been killed by something that had grabbed her neck, and dragged her down from the shelter area to this spot by the fence. Apparently whatever it was, couldn’t jump over the fence with her (all of my animals are, well, pudgy) so left her there partially eaten. I was horrified and distraught, never having witnessed anything like this happen to any of my animals. Scared that whatever it was would come back, we dug a deep grave for her and buried her right there.

Since the Rosie episode, I began closing the llamas and goats in the shelter paddock area at night. It is a 3-sided shelter, with a 6 foot fence running down the middle of the paddock to separate the geldings and goat wethers from the female llamas and does. The entire area is surrounded by 6 foot livestock wire fence. We went on with this new routine for a month or so, and with no sightings or sign of more predators I grew comfortable that it was an isolated incident and whatever it was that killed Rosie, had moved on.

Then one morning when my husband had the day off, we were working around the ranch. I went up to feed and clean the shelter and let the animals out to the fields, and I noticed that the female llamas and goats were already out in the field, grazing. Hmmm, did I not latch the gate last night? I most surely thought I had. Then I saw it, my prized pygora wether with the loveliest black silky fleece, down on the ground on the boys’ side. Dropping buckets, screaming, I flew to the house, babbling to my husband about Blackie and not able to control my emotions. When we got back up to the paddock, not only was it Blackie, but Cody as well, my other big pygora wether -- both laying there dead. My boys, my pets, my sweet goats who would let me brush and fuss over them, go for walks with me on halter and lead and follow me around like pet dogs. I was inconsolable and my husband was heartbroken as well. In this instance, and with Rosie, we heard nothing during the night. The outside dogs didn’t bark, the llamas didn’t alarm call, nothing. The llamas and does on the other side had broken the latch on the gate, storming it to get away from the terror on the other side of their pen.

Some time after Rosie was killed I was talking with my vet, and she said that it sounded like a mountain lion kill and I probably should have called California Dept of Fish & Game to help trap it. Now, with Blackie and Cody both killed the same way, I knew what I had to do. I got on the phone right away and was directed to the Nevada County trapper, who specializes in tracking and trapping mountain lions. I applied for a California depredation permit which allows to trap and kill a mountain lion when it has damaged or killed property. Since mountain lions are a ‘protected species’ in California (not endangered, in fact far from it) it is illegal to kill a mountain lion without a permit. According to Fish & Game, the cougar population has grown so huge, and with their hunting territories being up to 50 miles per lion there are apparently more and more cases of these lions coming onto ranches and killing livestock instead of competing for food and hunting areas in the wild.

The trapper came out and indeed confirmed that the kills were from a mountain lion, and set up a cage trap on the property using one of the dead goats as ‘bait’. Normally they would also run dogs to get a scent trail and ‘tree’ the lion, but the properties around us are small, 5 acres or less, and the Game Warden would not approve running dogs across so many properties. He advised us to leave the remaining 4 goats and the llamas out in the field that night, for if the mountain lion came back and got into the pen, there would surely be more deaths than if they could run in the field. With the way this lion was killing, and not ‘feasting’, it looked more like sport killing. And there is nothing stopping a mountain lion from killing llamas too. I was uneasy to leave them out in the field, but couldn’t bear the thought of them being ‘trapped’.

That next night was long and I slept little. This time the llamas were alarming, and we’d go out to check. We knew the lion would come back for the ‘bait’ in the trap, so were hoping it would not bother the animals. Each time we went out to check, the llamas were surrounding the goats in the field, and no sign of cougar. We figured they were nervous since it was in the area, possibly back at the trap area. It was definitely eerie to be out there at night, knowing there was a mountain lion nearby. Just before dawn, we heard the llamas alarming again and my husband went out to check. All was well, as before. He went up at 6:00am to check the trap, and immediately came back with bad news. Two more goats were dead in the field. The lion must have been in or around the field when he went up before, and then charged the group after he left. We heard nothing of these kills, no more alarming, no running, no goats bleating. Our windows were open and facing the field, close to where the goats were killed. These mountain lions are so quick, and kill so swiftly, that there is no time for reaction. These two goats were my gentle but loud pygora Bloatie, Blackie’s mom. And a small pygmy that I had rescued some time back with her twin sister.

That was it, I couldn’t sit by and watch as more of my beloved animals were killed…. And the way this mountain lion was killing for sport, I was sure it would take down a llama just as easily as the goats. The next night, all 6 llamas went into our 2-car garage. I cleared out what I could and put in fans and a nightlight. They all haltered up easily and led down to the garage, and with a little coaxing with the grain can they all went in, amazingly. I think they knew something was amiss and I wasn’t fooling around. My two remaining goats went to a neighbor’s pig barn that had a small enclosed shed. The next morning - boy did I have a big mess to clean up in the garage - but the llamas were safe. And, oh so happy to be let out that they rushed out the small side door when I opened it, knocked me down and took off! Luckily our property is completely fenced and the gates were closed. After I caught my breath and dusted off, I rounded them up and led them back up to the fields for the day. During the day, the herd queen was alarming at the fenceline and I was very uneasy. The morning turned up nothing in the cougar trap, so the killer was still on the loose. We did this routine for 2 more nights, very exhausting for all and the stress was high. The llamas weren’t eating well, had the stress wrinkle under the eyes, and I was at wits end trying to get them in the garage every night. By the second night, they KNEW they didn’t want to be in there and would put up such a fuss, even with the grain can and my husband helping. It was not a good situation.

Meanwhile, I had been having very supportive and helpful communications with my ‘llama friends’ on an online email chat list. Hundreds of wonderfully kind, intelligent and experienced llama owners all sharing information and bouncing ideas as well as lending emotional support in times such as these. There were phone calls from members of the “List”, giving sage advice and letting me cry on their shoulders. There were private emails, offering ideas and more support. Then, an email came through the List from a llama friend I had recently met at a local llama show…. Lee Berringsmith of LinLee Llamas in Roseville, CA said he would coordinate llama folk in my area to board my llamas. He stepped right in and contacted some llama folks near me and told them my dilemma and how I had been putting my llamas in the garage for 3 nights now, with the cougar still on the loose. Rick and Mary Adams of Wild Oak Llamas in Grass Valley, didn’t hesitate when they said “what can we do?” Mary called me right away and the next morning they came out with their trailer and picked up my 6 llamas to take and board at their beautiful 12 acre ranch. I followed them back there, and what a gorgeous place my llamas will stay at! Plus, many lovely llamas to gaze at over the fence. Rick and Mary were so gracious, they seemed happy to help and said they could stay there as long as needed. They made me (and my llamas) feel so welcome, like we were life-long friends. What a relief, some comfort and kindness after days of stress and horror.

With my remaining animals safe and sound, we set about ‘building a barn’. We took the existing three-sided shelter, constructed walls and doors all around. We removed the fenceline that separated the geldings from the girls, as they would all have to live together now. We put in roof ventilation and had open windows around all sides and on the doors, covered with fencing and 1x1 wood slats. We put sensor lighting up, and I hung wind chimes all around. Still no more sign of the mountain lion, although Fish & Game said it was being tracked by livestock kills on other ranches near me. He was definitely traveling in a pattern, returning to ranches where he had previously killed. By looking at the ‘kill pattern’ on a map, they estimated the lion would be back here in about 4 weeks.

Once the barn was finished, I called Rick and Mary Adams and told them I could bring my llamas back home. Mary instantly offered to halter them all up and bring them over in their trailer. What an angel! They brought the llamas home, we introduced them to the barn, we hugged and Mary said “now we are friends”. Mind you, I had never met these wonderful people before in my life! I brought my 2 goats home, and everyone has been real good about going into the barn at night (with the help of the sweet grain, of course!). Not long after, I got a call from Fish & Game that they had trapped and killed two mountain lions not far from us, on another ranch where they had just killed many sheep and chickens. It was a mother-son team, the mother teaching the young male how to hunt and kill livestock. They were fairly certain it was the same ones that killed our goats. For now, our threat is gone, but I’m sure it’s not long before more move into their territory. Every night, the animals all go in the barn, and I can finally get some sleep at night.

Many llama hugs a!!nd humms to my dear friends on the Llama-Info chat list, and Lee Berringsmith and Rick and Mary Adams. With your help, we got through