Motswari Blog 2020 Volume 01 – Painted dogs versus wildebeest

Having been blessed with regular painted dog sightings during their denning season in the Timbavati,we always hope they’ll come back and visit us during their nomadic travels. This last week we have been spoilt with sightings of the 17 strong pack–this is the pack that denned in the northern regions of the Umbabat.

With Guide Sean Cawood in charge of our vehicle, he knew the dogs were around and planned to get into the sighting as late as possible to hopefully capture their activity when they wake from their day of slumber and start to hunt. That’s exactly what he achieved. As we arrived at a small dam, the golden light touched the resting pack just when they started to get active; squeaking, playing,drinking and being social. Shortly after their ritual greetings they were on the move, the alpha female and male leading the way. Sean read the situation brilliantly, the dogs were heading towards an airstrip where he knew there was a herd of wildebeest with at least 3 young calves. The other Guide in the sighting, Landon, made his way to the airstrip lying in wait to see what transpired. Sean followed the dogs through the bush to make sure we didn’t lose visual and sure enough, we popped out on the airstrip.

As soon as the wildebeest saw the pack approaching, the herd immediately clustered into a defensive formation,with the youngsters protected in the middle of the herd staying close to their mothers. As the dogs approached, crouched in hunting mode, the wildebeest adults stood tall and firm. The dogs needed to force the herd to split up, panic almost,to make the youngsters vulnerable, whilst the wildebeest needed to stand together and united in order to successfully defend their youngsters.

It was a fascinating 15 minutes of cat and mouse–the wildebeest bulls would charge at the dogs when they broke inside their comfort zone, pushing the dogs back again.The dogs would regain confidence and flank the herd in a way that could make them lose their strength, dust was flying everywhere but the formation of the herd didn’t change and the dogs had to eventually move on to another challenge. Definitely worth watching the video for the action!

This painted dog pack has a lot of youngsters, they are still learning and this would have been another part of that steep hunting learning curve. With a few more experienced adults in the mix, or maybe even a larger pack the outcome could have been very different. A whole new respect to the wildebeest bulls and mums who fought off the pack–fierce defense won the day, what an awesome experience for both vehicles lucky enough to be there.


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