July 2021

Hyena or wild dog?

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Hyena or wild dog?

In the month of June, temperatures can be bitter, especially in the early mornings. We try to leave the lodges as early as possible to try and catch some early morning hunting activities or get tracks while they are fresh and easy to follow up on. It is easy to see the tracks before the sun is too bright. Morning drives also offer a long daylight period which allows ample opportunity to track without fear of losing light and\ visibility.

On this particular morning we just had a crazy plan, which was to try and get as many sightings as possible because it was our last drive with the guests we had before they departed later in the day. After twenty minutes of driving around it became clear that the plan of working without a plan was not going to be easy, but we stuck with the plan of working without a plan anyway...

Then a plan was presented to us in a form of a spotted hyena that came past us at full speed, heading in a south-easterly direction away from Castleton Dam. We pursued! These guys are the best at locating other predators and start challenging them for their hard-earned kills, which is why I sometimes refer to hyenas as the taxmen of the bush. We could not keep up with the animal, so we did the next best thing which was to switch off and listen.

Then we heard it! It sounded like hyenas fighting with wild dogs, which is quite common, what is not common though is a wild dog sighting, so off we went into the African woodland savanna towards the general direction of the commotion. Indeed, wild dogs were present and indeed the hyenas had stolen a whole impala ram which was being ripped apart messily by these scavengers, while wild dogs were just milling around trying to avoid any unnecessary interaction with the hyenas.

In the feeding frenzy you could clearly see that its everyone for their stomach and no mercy is shown. The hyenas were covered in blood and they seemed to want more even though their bellies did not look like they had any more space to spare.

It was an exciting morning, and I felt we really did see everything as we followed the wild dogs that were looking to try and make another kill. We watched them fail a couple of times. All the impalas in the area looked like they needed counselling after surviving wave after wave of these animals looking to get food for the morning. All I could say was, “Good luck impalas!” as we left the sighting to try for other animals.

Andries Mohlala
By Andries Mohlala
Field Guide