Wild Dogs hunt Impala

01st May 2013
Wild Dogs are well known for their highly efficient hunting methods. Rather than relying on stealth and ambush (as do the cats) they employ the chaos and confusion method with astonishing success. It's estimated that around 90% of Wild Dog hunts end in a meal for the predator, compared to around 5-10% for cats.

I'd seen several Wild Dog hunts in the past, but the one I watched on Sunday evening was perhaps the most spectacular in its ruthless efficiency.

As the heat seeped out of the afternoon and the sun dropped lower towards the horizon, the 5 dogs awoke and began a short session of ritualised greetings - licking at the mouth of other dogs and rearing up to meet companions in an exaggerated boxing display.

After a couple of minutes of this, the dogs began to move out towards a herd of around 80 impala who were feeding nearby. They sat in the shade of some thickets, and observed the impala who were completely unaware of their presence.

Without warning, one of the adult males set off in the direction of the impala herd, scattering them in all directions.

As the other dogs followed behind, one impala headed towards me and gave an amazing display of pronking as an honest show of strength and agility to the hunters.

Within seconds, most of the impala were standing still again, so confused by the 5 predators in amongst them, that they didn't know which way to run.

Shortly after there came the unmistakable sound of a distressed impala, and the remaining 4 dogs turned towards the noise. One adult dog had caught an antelope by its hind quarters and was not going to let go. The other dogs arrived and the bleating stopped very soon after. From first attack by the adult dog to a silenced impala - less than 1 minute.

The feeding frenzy that followed was pretty brief too, lasting around 10 minutes. After this time, there were only bones and skin remaining, all the valuable meat safely protected from scavengers inside the dogs' bellies. Being at the bottom of the hierarchy of predators means that you have to employ other methods to protect what you kill, and gulping it down is certainly effective. (Dogs will 'beg' food from others who have fed more recently, asking the adult to regurgitate largely undigested lumps of meat, which are then eaten by the youngsters.)

With full bellies and in failing light, the dogs settled down for the night.

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