We got Tina Claire, the llama, with the intention of her being a herd guardian. However, little did we know how valuable she would be to us. It was a typical Thursday morning at the farm. Donald was feeding the outside crew, and I was making lunch for our work day. We both were getting ready for our day job, teaching. However, Donald came inside around 6:30am and said "Steph come outside now." I quickly threw on my boots, because when Donald makes a statement like that it is not normally followed by a positive situation.
Donald was outside, standing near the barn and he asked, "Do you see Tina Claire anywhere?" I replied, "She is not exactly a small animal that can hide." I walked into the paddock and the barn, but I did not see any signs of her black woolly body. All the alpacas appeared to be fine and were all accounted for. We quickly started scanning the property, neighboring fields, and the woods. I began walking the fence line and realized that one of the corners of fencing was bent down; the wooden pole had shifted from its home three feet underground. As I look at the corner I almost stumbled upon a HUGE pile of bear scat, that's right bear scat! I immediately began running multiple scenarios through my head. By the looks of the fence, a great battle that rivaled a Tolkien Middle Earth battle, had taken place. Donald and I immediately jumped into the car and started driving up and down our road, to see if we could spot our woolly warrior. Yet, there were no signs of our girl.
We immediately decided that this would be a great day to take a personal day to see if we could find Tina Claire. We began making calls to local alpaca/llama friends and game them a heads up about our interesting morning. Our mentor Patty set up a pretty clear scenario, based on her experience. According to her, the bear smelled the sweet feed in the barn, and wanted to get to the barn. Tina Claire, as the herd guardian, was not going to allow that and she bent the fence spitting at him aggressively. She eventually jumped the fence and chased him from the property, and may have gotten lost.
Through my phone calls from neighbors and friends in the area we found out that our lovely llama girl was hanging out at the gas station, about a mile and half down the road. It was about 9 am, and our llama had been sighted and appeared to be uninjured. A few neighbors, and alpaca friends helped us try to corral our bear warrior. Hours dragged on, and it appeared she would not allow anyone near her and she was still excited from her earlier experience. At about 2pm we decided we needed to call Virginia Tech and have her shot with a tranquilizer gun. The veterinarian and vet students arrived, and the first time they shoot the dart seems to lose energy and falls very short of our girl. The vet stated that in all her years this has never happened before, but of course it happened that day! The second dart was successful and lodged itself in her fuzzy hindquarter. Tina Claire eventually became woozy enough and decided she needed a lie down. We managed to halter her and quickly evaluated her for any injuries. It seemed she escaped with not even a scratch, but her feet were a bit sore from her run on the road.
By 5:30pm Tina Claire was locked in the barn, and was losing the effects of her tranquilizer. As she recovered Donald and I quickly installed an electric top wire to our paddock. Our neighbor had generously donated the kicker and wire, as they were just sitting in his barn. We truly are blessed by such great neighbors.
One week later, it was open season in Catawba. Our neighbor called and told us that he had shot Tina Claire's bear. Her bear was a 250 pound, four year old male. It seemed this bear had been a menace in the area, knocking over barbeques, and following neighbors for food. We were so thankful for Tina Claire and her dedication to her herd. Her vigilance and protective nature prevented an what could have been an awful situation.