10 Highly Unconventional Guard Animals
By Jake Rossen
When people think of guard animals, they tend to imagine triangle-eared Dobermans trained to target the major arteries of home invaders. But not all sentries are that formidable. Check out 10 unlikely animals that have been recruited for some unique monitoring duties.
1. THE GEESE THAT GUARDED WHISKEY
From 1959 to 2012, Ballantine's whisky distillery in Dumbarton, Scotland used a flock of geese to guard their liquor inventory. Owner Hiram Walker believed that anyone trespassing on the grounds would never be able to avoid the geese from starting a noisy ruckus and alerting residents nearby to the disturbance. When new owners took over the property, they decided to let the remaining watch-geese enter into an early retirement at a Glasgow animal sanctuary, reasoning that they were "no longer required for security purposes."
“Police geese” are also used in China’s Xinjiang province, where their shrieking can alert both homeowners and police stations to suspicious activity.
2. THE DUCKS OF WRATH
A vineyard in the Western Cape in South Africa keeps its grapes from being ruined by pests by allowing a veritable army of ducks to march in waves and devour bugs. Because they act as a natural pesticide, the vineyard has been able to reduce chemical applications; their poop is also welcomed as a fertilizer. In honor of their service, the winery markets some of their products under the Runner Duck brand.
3. THE KING COBRA THAT WATCHED OVER A ZOO
In 1978, the Skansen Zoo in Stockholm was having a major problem with burglaries. To remedy the situation, zookeepers allowed a king cobra to wander outside of its enclosure and slither across zoo grounds overnight. A spokesperson made sure to tell media that the 14-foot-long reptile was so venomous that its bite would kill an intruder within 15 minutes. There were no more break-ins following the announcement.
4. THE CATS LOOKING OUT FOR A BREWERY
While cats have their charms, respect for property is not usually listed among them. But a brewery in Chicago has managed to channel their inherent attraction to rats to help keep their beverage area pest-free. Empirical Brewing had a rodent problem so serious that foot-long invaders, waiting to nibble on grain bags and spread pestilence, could be spotted before employees closed for the night. To solve the issue, the company adopted four mousers to act as their night watch: Egon, Venkman (who has his own Twitter feed), Raymond, and Gozer. The foursome has kept the floor rat-free ever since.
5. THE LLAMAS THAT PROTECT SHEEP
For years, coyotes have been denied a delicious sheep dinner by the charging, wailing llama, a pack animal that farmers have been incorporating into their land to ward off predators. A 2003 survey conducted by Iowa State University found that half of llama-wrangled flocks had a 100 percent reduction in attacks since the animals went on patrol. It’s believed that the larger family of camelids that llamas belong to were once stalked by dogs, prompting an aggressive response toward predators. Llamas will stand taller, cry, and charge a looming coyote—even killing it if things escalate. They can also protect poultry and cattle. One caveat: Most farmers opt for a single llama, as having two means they might ignore the sheep in order to hang out with each other.
6. NAVAL DOLPHINS AND SEA LIONS
Ittook approximately 30 years for the U.S. Navy to disclose one of their secret weapons in the protection of the United States: dolphins. With unparalleled sonar detection, the mammals can easily retrieve lost equipment, find explosive devices, and alert their human supervisors to unauthorized swimmers in their territory. The same program also uses sea lions that have been trained to swim while biting down on a clamp; they can attach it to an object or person that the military wants to track.
7. MR. TEETH, THE DRUG-GUARDING ALLIGATOR
As any drug kingpin will tell you, making sure your stash of illegal narcotics isn’t knocked off by the competition is key to maintaining profit margins. That’s why a marijuana dealer in Castro Valley, California, kept an alligator named Mr. Teeth within a few feet of his 34 pounds of inventory. The reptile was discovered by police during a probation check. ("We get guard dogs all of the time when we search for grow houses and people stashing away all types of dope. But alligators? You just don't see that every day," Alameda County sergeant JD Nelson told the Associated Press.) In addition to legal troubles relating to the cannabis, Mr. Teeth’s owner was also in danger of being charged with keeping an exotic pet without a license.
8. PEPE THE GUARD SKUNK
A radiator manufacturer in Fort Wayne, Indiana, found an effective deterrent for anyone considering a break-in at their warehouse: Pepe, a guard skunk who was allowed to roam the building at night. Manager Tim Kelley told the Associated Press in 1983 that the mere sight of Pepe was enough to dissuade anyone from coming in, although his comments to the media may have impacted the skunk’s reputation: Kelley said the animal had been de-fumed.
9. THE BEARS THAT PATROLLED A MARIJUANA FIELD
Marijuana growers are highly imaginative when it comes to finding new and exotic ways to protect their crops. A couple near Vancouver was busted in 2010 after police discovered a field containing more than 2300 plants and roughly 14 black bears. Authorities surmised that the two had left dog food on the property in order to attract the bears, which are common in that part of Canada. Unfortunately, it’s not likely they would have repelled a human-led heist. When confronted by cops, the bears continued to nap; one settled in on top of a police car. "They were tame ... They weren't aggressive," Sergeant Fred Mansveld told The Telegraph. “But it soon became apparent they were habituated to the (drugs) operation.”
10. THE WOLF AT THE DOOR
While wolves are usually what people want protection from, the villagers of Kazakhstan believe the predator can be tamed enough to switch sides. The BBC reported in 2014 that residents have taken up the practice of purchasing wolves to act as guard animals for their property. One owner, Nurseit Zhylkyshybay, said he takes his wolf for walks and that there’s been no problem with neighbors; a wolf expert cautioned that the animals are a “ticking time bomb” that could turn on their masters at any moment. If you'd prefer not to risk being attacked by your protector, consider using the ducks.