Wild Dog Behaviour

28th October 2012
I had a very interesting encounter with a pack of 18 Wild Dogs recently. By this time of year, this pack's activities are often centred around a salt spring in the back country away from the river. Whenever dogs can find a water source in a marginal area away from areas of high prey density, they choose to live and hunt around there to avoid confrontations with lions. Death by lions is the single largest cause of mortality among Wild Dogs in this area and particularly when the pack is supporting pups as this one is.

When we found them, they were actively squabbling over the remains of a very freshly killed impala which I judged had been caught less than 30 minutes before. The dogs had followed their usual practice of dismembering the carcass and rapidly consuming all of it to protect it from larger predators and scavengers such as hyaenas. There was also a Tawny Eagle nearby who was hoping to clean up any scraps that the dogs left behind. After lying down for a while, the pups became restless and began to tumble around with their siblings.

Eventually the adults became bored with the kids' behaviour and escorted them down to a nearby pool where they drank and then began to play in the water.

One of the adult dogs kept watch carefully throughout the time when the pups were playing in the pool, making sure that there weren't any lions or hyaenas sneaking up on them.

Once the pups had cooled off and had a drink, they rolled around in the dry grass and continued playing. Interestingly, they began to mob one of the adults, biting gently at her lips and ears, and begging for food. (When the female is back at a den with pups, dogs which have made a kill gulp down their food, barely chewing it on the way, and then carry it back to the den in their stomachs. The female and pups then beg for chunks of regurgitated meat.) Even though these pups have now left the den and are with the main pack, they've clearly not forgotten how to beg food from the adults!

They mobbed her endlessly until she eventually relented and deposited a large lump of saliva-covered meat on the grass. The pups descended on it, shredding it immediately and leaving no trace seconds later. It was a happy scene as the pups fed together.

We left them resting under a big Sausage tree, waiting for the heat of the day to subside so that they could hunt again.

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