Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Rocky Mountain Llama Seal
The mighty Rocky Mountain Llama Seal once wandered the lake shores and stream sides of Utah's Mount Timpanogoso to such an extent that early settlers to the area were once known colloquially as "Llama Sealers". Now virtually extinct, Llama Seals are slow moving creatures gifted with a playful nature and a strong webbed tail that they use to crush their primary diet of baby opossums and fresh water mollusks.
Because of a unique stomach and throat physiology, the Llama Seal has a strong rotting fish scent and a hoarse mating call that American writer Mark Twain once described as, "...disconcertingly like a drunken Australian sailor drowning in a vat of cheap lager." The call can be heard for miles.
Native Americans believed that hearing the Seal's mating call before going into battle was good luck, and sometimes domesticated the creatures as pets. However, later Mormon settlers to the region considered the creature a hopeless blight on the landscape, and dedicated themselves to eradicating it. For two decades, Mormon men were not allowed to take a third wife until they had brought home the heads of 35 Llama Seals. Llama seal tails were laminated and used as dessert trays, while the horns were made into ceremonial trumpets that can still be found hanging above the mantelpiece in more traditional homes.
The Rocky Mountain Llama Seal's habitat is limited to a small area around Mount Timpanagoso in what is now Utah. Fossil evidence suggests that the Seal once lived throughout the Rocky Mountains, but the tranquil creature, which has functionally ceremonial horns, human-like teeth and no claws to speak of, was extremely vulnerable to small changes in its ecosystem and the predator population.
In art, the Rocky Mountain Llama Seal is featured in the Cole Porter song, "I Put the Seal on You", and the painting "Mount Timpanagoso", by Kandinsky. The formation of the Mormon efforts to eradicate the mammal was a subplot in the Broadway musical, "Brigham!", which ran for five performances on Broadway in 1958.