El Capitan Canyon welcomes visitors to celebration; two llamas join the herd
The llamas that prance, sunbathe and stretch along Highway 101 in Gaviota are typically only accessible to El Capitan Canyon guests and those involved in partnership programs, such as 4H.
But the resort opened pastures Thursday, National Llama Day, to the public.
Richard Good, general manager, hopes this year will set a tradition for more Llama Day celebrations with the community.
Two additions to the herd arrived just 48 hours before the Big Day: a female and male llama each around eight months old. Community members, guests and staff are submitting name suggestions for these young llamas.
When El Capitan Canyon bought the land (which Mr. Good describes as having a “million dollar view”) in 2000, the staff inherited 30 female llamas from the previous owner.
In captivity, llamas live to be about 20 years old. There are 30-year-old llamas lounging in the resort’s field.
Mr. Good thinks resident farmer and maintenance manager Larry Miller — often called the “Goat Whisperer” — has something to do with the herd’s longevity.
One such senior llama, Oreo (perhaps named for her cookies-and-cream, freckly face), resides with the sheep in the smaller pasture. She can’t walk far, so Mr. Miller placed her with the sheep. He didn’t want her to feel the pressure to keep up with the llamas.
Mr. Miller came from Ohio in 2005, where he worked in agricultural education, to take care of the resort’s animals.
He enjoys working with Santa Ynez 4H, the Waldorf School — and anyone who is curious enough to learn about animals.
Sometimes, interested guests witness an animal’s birth. Mr. Miller has many stories where families staying at the ranch became involved in the birthing process.
He brings bottle-fed baby goats to the Waldorf School, where the students learn to nurture the animals. A Waldorf preschool student arrived at the Llama Day celebration Thursday, smiling as she handed hay to docile sheep.
The wool sheared from the animals is used for fiber arts at the Waldorf School.
As Mr. Miller fed the llamas, a particularly rambunctious goat named Lily stood up on the fence, looking at the small group that pooled around the new arrivals.
Lily was bottle-fed by a third-grade class at Waldorf School that helped raise her. Now she loves attention, Mr. Good said.
He said she didn’t like being evacuated with the other goats during the Alisal Fire. The resort had help from the Santa Barbara Equine Assistance and Evacuation Team — its selected charity for the month of December.
While llama’s small snouts and beady eyes look cute, Mr. Miller said they are bred for fighting off coyotes and protecting sheep, though he also has fencing in place to prevent such encounters.
The two new llamas were bred in Temecula, and the owner wanted to make sure their new home had smaller species around for them to serve their protective duty.
The resort plans to introduce the llamas and celebrate them more elaborately in a guests-only event Saturday.
“Whether you’re five or 50, this is a big highlight of the resort experience,” Mr. Good said. “And for me, I think a lot of what the resort offers is this opportunity to commune with nature and spend time in nature — and this is a big extension of that.”