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Guanaco (Lama guanicoe) Fact Sheet: Behavior & Ecology

Activity Cycle


  • Consistent activity throughout the day
  • One study
    • Males: 65% foraging, 14% alert, 12% resting (no difference between family-group and solo males.)
    • Females: 89% foraging, 26% alert, 43% resting, 15% moving, 11% aggression

Home Range

Territory/Home Range

  • Male establishes and defends desirable territory (sufficient food / few predators).
    • Territory is maintained from mid-spring to late autumn.
    • Dung piles (not used by other herd members) mark territory.
    • Males migrate from wintering grounds back to same territorial region in the spring.
  • Fluid movement of females between male territories.
  • Summer territories are usually larger than winter territories.
  • When conditions are harsh (severe weather/little food) – large mixed herds form (no territoriality).
  • Herds are sedentary when forage supplies and weather are stable

Social Groups

  • Territorial male with family group = single male with harems (5-13 adults and ~ 3 young)
  • Solo territorial males = single male with no family of females
  • Male groups (immature males, yearlings evicted from family groups, and old or injured males)
  • Bands of adult females with young, move between male territories from middle-to-late mating season

Social Interactions


  • Mothers exhibit aggressive behavior toward predators.
  • In controlling his harem, male chases, bites hindlegs of females, forceably expels juveniles.
  • Fights over territory can be violent and damaging.



  • Spitting: Diffuse spewing of stomach contents (preceded by gulping/ gurgling sound (3-6 ft range).

Visual Signs

  • Ears, tail and body language combine to provide social information
  • Greeting after separation: Stand nose to nose. Horizontal wagging or U-flagging tail movement.
  • Tail curved over back, neck low, front limbs slightly bent – submission.
  • Ears
    • Straight up – normal
    • Forward – alarm
    • Horizontal – aggression
  • Tail
    • Straight down – normal position
    • Horizontal or slightly raised –
    • High Tail – aggression


  • Danger warning: high trill
  • Snort – mild aggression
  • Shreeking – extreme aggression

Olfaction/Scent Marking

  • Dung piles are used for defecation.




  • Run at speeds up to 40 mph (64 km/hr)
  • Babies can run soon after birth.


  • Strong swimmers

Interspecies Interactions


  • Incas used them as pack animals.
  • Integrated into lives of the indigenous people (used for transportation, clothing and other textile articles, meat and milk products).
  • Raised in non-native countries because of their usefulness as pack animals, pets, and guard animals for sheep.

Page Citations

Franklin & Herre (1990)
Gonzalez et al (2006)
Young & Franklin (2004)
Ortega & Franklin (1995)
Puig & Videla (1995)
Fowler (1998)

SDZWA Library Links