Llamas are not found in the wild, as they are a totally domesticated species. Their native range is the Andean highlands at elevations not exceeding 4,000 feet. These areas have low shrubs and some temperate forests. Llamas have been introduced into North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia.
Llamas and alpacas are camelids. Like true camels, llamas are “bump-footed”, which refers to a pad they have on the soles of their feet. Llamas’ ancestors, like those of all camels, originated in the Americas. No camelid ancestors have been found in Asia which date earlier than those found in the Americas. The ancestors of true camels migrated into Asia across the Bering Land Bridge, and the ancestors of llamas remained.
They haven’t always lived only in South America, though. Fossils have been found in the Southern and Western United States that suggest that llamas only entered South America when the Isthmus of Panama was created three million years ago, in the event known as the Great American Interchange. Shortly after they made their way into South America, the North American population died out.
Baby llamas are called crias. Crias are born after a gestation period of almost a year without much difficulty for the mother. Most births last only half an hour. The other females in a herd circle around a mother in labor to protect her and the cria from predators or the males of the herd. Within an hour of being born, crias are able to walk and drink milk. To comfort her cria and establish a bond, the mother will nuzzle and make humming noises to her baby.
After weaning, llamas typically are very calm and friendly animals towards humans. They may be quite curious but don’t try to spit at or kick humans. Only llamas who have been overly socialized to humans as a cria exhibit these behaviors. That is because these are things that llamas do to each other, to assert their position in the herd’s hierarchy.
Most llama herds consist of a handful of females and their young, with a male defending their territory from predators and other llama herds. They have specific calls to signal that a predator is nearby. They are able to drive away threats, like dogs, by charging and kicking at the predator.
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