I’d the impression guanacos were not that common an animal in South America. Yes, they were there, but like the Andean Condor you’d have to be lucky to see one. After visiting Argentina and Chile I learned this impression was totally wrong. They’re as common as corn in the fields of Iowa on a summer day, As common as mosquitoes on the Canadian tundra after the spring thaw. They’re everywhere! These guanacos were standing beside the road and didn’t move when our tour van stopped for these photos, unconcerned about our presence.
Guanacos are related to camels and between 1 and 1.2 meters (3 – 4 ft) tall at the shoulder, weighing a surprising 90 kg (200 lb). Their color is very bland compared to their cousins, the domesticated llama, a mixture of light-brown to reddish-brown and white fur offset by their gray faces. Guanacos are found in mountainous and high altitude regions of South America so obviously are centered on those countries that border the Andes, from Ecuador and Peru in the north to the southern tip of Chile and Argentina, and they are especially common in Patagonia. They have only one natural predator, the mountain lion (aka cougar, puma).
Like camels, guanacos are expert spitters when angered or threatened. Our guide described being hit by their spittle like being struck by a paintball! Wouldn’t stop a puma, but will definitely gross out a tourist!