Dogs and Dens

Sabi Sand | September 2017

We have been lucky enough to have a pack of “painted wolves” denning close to our lodges for the second year in a row. Painted wolves (Lycaon pictus), also known as wild dogs, usually give birth to a litter of pups at the start of the dry season, which begins around April and May. Scientists believe that this coincides with the mating season of the impala, which are the main prey species of the painted wolves. During the rut, impala rams are often weakened and distracted from fighting off other males, and can therefore be easier prey for the dogs.

There is a clear dominance hierarchy amongst the members of a pack, with often only the alpha male and female having offspring and the rest of the pack helping with the upbringing of the youngsters. However, if the resources are rich and plentiful, the beta female can frequently also fall pregnant and successfully raise pups into adulthood. Last year we observed that the alpha female had given birth to seven pups, of which all are still alive this year, and the beta female gave birth to a second litter of also seven pups, of which we believe five are still alive this year.

To our delight, the pack returned to the same denning area this year and so far the alpha female has given birth to ten pups, which are growing up fast and are doing extremely well.

A few weeks back, in the middle of July, we went on an afternoon game drive and our route was straight to the den-site in order to catch the whole pack before they went on their daily hunt. The dogs tend to go out hunting later in the day with cooler temperatures yet still enough daylight. Our plan worked out and we found all members at the den, including the ten pups running around the mother.