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Llama sanctuary staying put at current Shuswap home

Owners and caretakers decide fourth move in 1 year would be too big an endeavour
Duffy the llama greets visitors to the Llama Sanctuary in Tappen. (Llama Sanctuary-Facebook)

The Shuswap’s largest llama residence is remaining settled in their newest home and were able to escape evacuation due to wildfire.

The Llama Sanctuary had a busy 2023, having had to move the herd of over 35 llamas and alpacas, required supplies and equipment and the animals’ caretakers and sanctuary owners, David Chapman and Lynne Milsom, three times due to evictions and unsuitable arrangements.

Read more: Big prob’llama’: Sanctuary near Vernon in need of new home – again

Read more: Llama Sanctuary finds last-minute Shuswap home following eviction

Read more: Shuswap-based Llama Sanctuary makes second move in one month

The sanctuary is now working hard to build a larger winter barn and add more than 10,000 feet of fencing to keep llamas from jumping, as well as complete as much rebuilding as possible before harsh weather sets in. The Columbia Shuswap Regional District recently provided a grant of $1,500 to the sanctuary for fencing, which was purchased at a discount from Peavey Mart in Salmon Arm.

The sanctuary’s owners are grateful they haven’t been in immediate danger from the Bush Creek East wildfire and weren’t ordered to evacuate from their property at Recline Ridge EcoPark in Tappen. Chapman said they have made the decision not to evacuate if the fire threatens them further, as a move would be too challenging without a place lined up to transfer the llamas to.

“We were on alert; the fires were just a couple miles over Notch Hill,” said Chapman. “But we decided we would not move, it’s too big and too dangerous to move all the animals.”

The sanctuary is now on a property with a built-in firefighting system set up, leftover from an industry that used to operate on the land, said Chapman. A 300,000 gallon water system is in place because of the work being done at the EcoPark. Equipment like a tractor with a firefighting pump was available for fighting any spot-sized grass fires that may have sparked, and since they felt prepared, the sanctuary was able to help others evacuate and bring animals in need onto their property.

“One of the directors from the Regional District of North Okanagan said we fall into the category of dairy farms, in terms of evacuation, you cannot evacuate a whole dairy farm,” said Chapman. “You have to have the facilities to keep milking the cows, so dairy farms themselves introduce their own fighting equipment, they get assistance and we really fall into that once you get to a certain number of animals.”

While Chapman said the sanctuary didn’t get any extra protection from the regional district, they did use neighbours’ and friends’ equipment.

Chapman and Milsom hosted evacuees in a spare RV and were able to take in other camelids and some horses.

“We were able to offer assistance, which is what we’ve always done. It’s an open gate policy.”

Tours are available year-round at the sanctuary, and Chapman said one of his favourites is when social care groups, including for those living with autism and retirement home groups, come to have llama interactions. There is work being done to best accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility issues, he said, and these visits always end up with lots of laughs.

“The llamas will accept a carrot from anyone, they see no difference.”

Looking ahead, Chapman is excited for what the next year will bring, including welcoming more llamas once SPCA investigations are complete and looking to expand into rescuing cats, building a safe space in the barn for them and opening a possible meeting space cat café.

Tours can be booked by calling 250-948-3675 or direct messaging The Llama Sanctuary on Facebook.

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Rebecca Willson

About the Author: Rebecca Willson

I took my first step into the journalism industry in November 2022 when I moved to Salmon Arm to work for the Observer and Eagle Valley News. I graduated with a journalism degree in December 2021 from MacEwan University in Edmonton.
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