Monday, February 15, 2010

Aberrant Behavior Syndrome

I've been trying to figure out how to tell this story. It's always easier to tell a difficult story when you have learned the lessons that are being taught. In this case, I am still figuring it out.

Just over two weeks ago, one of my alpacas attacked me.

He jumped on me while I was haltering him. He pinned me 4 times. I pinned him once. While he had me down, he bit me several times; on the face, ankles, legs and backside. The duration is fuzzy, but we wrestled for quite some time. This alpaca had decided that I was a threat to his territory.

This is the first time in my life I had ever been in a physical fight. I have no idea why he stopped.

Now that I've had the distance to think more clearly and do some research, I realize that this alpaca had all of the signs of Aberrant Behavior Syndrome (ABS) or as it used to be called, Berserk Male Syndrome. This alpaca was friendly from the first day I met him. He was the first to the fence when we visited the farm. He was in the way when chores were being done. He would pull my pony tail if I spent too much time paying attention to other alpacas. So when the ranchers offered him to us in a package, we accepted. I didn't know any better. I don't blame the selling ranch. I don't think they knew.

I have not been able to find a lot of information on ABS. What I have found relates to stopping it in juveniles as soon as they begin to exhibit the behavior. Unfortunately, this alpaca was an adult when we met him and is 4 1/2 years old now. He is proven and conveys is luster and volume to his cria.

I was injured from the attack, but fortunately nothing was broken and no stitches were required.

My husband and I went through a lot of emotions as we discussed options for how to remedy the situation. We spoke with a couple of breeders and our vet. We decided to geld this alpaca and work to improve his behavior.

We keep this alpaca with the big boys. I am able to handle, feed and muck all of the other alpacas we have.

We have been working with him a little each day. Initially, with the aid of a tennis racquet I have been making myself much bigger, from the safety of outside the corral.

A couple of days ago, I felt comfortable enough to help my husband with the mucking chores, but always with one eye on the alpaca.

Finally yesterday, I fed them. My husband was there, but I did the feeding. I feel like this is a huge accomplishment. It will still be a while before I am comfortable enough to be in the corral with this alpaca alone, but we are making a lot of progress.


WonderWhyGal said...

Thanks for sharing. I've read about this but never have known someone who experienced it.

I hope you are ok and I hope that gelding this boy helps.

Lynda said...

I'm sorry this happened to you and to your alpaca. It may take time to recover from the emotions that have surfaced from this, but I've been enjoying your blog and get the impression that you are a very intelligent, strong woman. No experience is wasted if we learn from it and you seem to be on the right track with gelding this boy and carefully re-adjusting yourself to his company. Best of luck to all of you.

Kathryn Ray said...

Thank you Lynda. I am happy to know you have been enjoying this blog.

When it came down to it, my husband and I felt this was an important learning opportunity and that we should at least try to make improvements. If nothing else, perhaps someone can learn from our experience.

I hope to be able to report more progress as the weeks go by.

Hellchick said...

Wow, Kathryn, what a story -- makes my blog entry the other day seem like a walk in the park. I've heard stories like this and have always winced at them, never having experienced it myself.

It sounds like you guys are making progress, though, and I love that you're willing to look at this as a learning opportunity. I've heard of other alpaca owners being too frightened by something like this to continue working with the alpaca, which only makes it worse. It sounds like you guys might be making progress. Good luck with it, and I'd love to read further updates on this.

Debbie said...

Oh my, what a horrible thing to happen. I hope you are continuing to recover. And for you not to blame the seller... I find that amazing. I think I would be hard pressed to be so forgiving. Especially since it was thrown into the package for free, as if they were relieved to get rid of him.

We have one boy who is very aggressive to the others and I am always on guard around him. His aggressions are all food related and he gets right in my face to make sure no one else gets pellets or hay before him. He is not inappropriate to me other than this, though - THANK GOODNESS.

The other 2 animals (girls) from the same owner all have temperament issues. It is always interesting to see this and realize that it is so VERY IMPORTANT to treat your alpacas with respect and understanding. And to realize that these animals are not pets and should always be allowed their space and to "be an alpaca". The very first breeder I purchased alpacas from flicked one of my crias in the nose when he was a bit friendly. At first I thought this was a bit cruel. Then upon more research and learning about alpaca behavior, I understood what she was doing.

A friendly alpaca is a sweet thing, but there are limits -- especially with boys.

I'll be interested to see how he progresses after being gelded.

Best to you on your continued recovery; both mentally and physically!

Brookfarm Alpacas

Kathryn Ray said...

Debbie - I'm definately not an expert yet, but I'm concerned that your male is "in your face" during feeding time. My alpaca was behaving the same way prior to our event.

Since then, we have been teaching him that he is not allowed in our space, ever. Eventually we'll get to the point to where I will enter his space.

One positive side effect from working with the male is that my dominate female is also responding. She no longer tries to hog the food while we are carrying it to the feeder.

Pepperina Girl said...

You were lucky - our stud male bit my husband around the ankle nearly severing the achilles tendon - 36 stitches and took ages to heal.

It would be interesting to know whether your boy had been bottle fed at any stage. You are brave to try and rectify his behaviour. We were never at ease with our boy after our incident. He never did it again. But we changed our behaviour too. We took charge - he respected our space and we respected his. When we wanted to halter him, we funnelled him into a small pen using a long rope so we weren't a threat. Then haltering was a breeze. I would recommend you looking at Marty McGee website and we did her training course also. Make sure you get one of her halters for him - they dont squeeze the nose and cause them to panic - well worth the cost.

Anonymous said...

I sure do love you, Honey! Kelly