Motswari Blog Volume 27 – Two dens, 49 wild dogs

Wild dogs, or painted wolves as they are sometimes known, may not be one of the big five yet they are more often than not on people’s bucket list when going on safari. Being part of the Greater Kruger National Park, we are lucky that there are quite a few packs that do end up gracing us with their presence.

During denning season, you can be certain that everyone in the Timbavati is praying that a pack will den in our traversing area, for obvious reasons. Denning season started at the end of June and if you follow our social media platforms you will know that we had one pack (13 adults in total) choose an old termite mound in the northern Timbavati as their “first home”. The same pack has moved location four times in the last eight weeks, which is commonplace because of hygiene issues like parasite infestations and general safety. Fortunately, on each relocation, they have not moved very far so we are able to continue to enjoy the growth, playfulness and downright cuteness of the puppies. There were 15 puppies at the beginning and at the time of writing all 15 are still accounted for – wonderful.

At the beginning the puppies are born blind, just like domestic dogs. By week two their eyes open and they become mobile – well, wobbly, but mobile nonetheless. We first saw them out of the den in week three, however, they did look a little like black rats rather than wild dogs! It was in week four that they really began to get their unique colourations and personalities. With the adult pack so habituated to vehicles the puppies quickly adjusted to us being in their midst. They were so curious that they would walk right up to the land rover, look, smell and listen – as if taking it all in. It even got to the point when they went under the car just because they could – not something we encouraged but also terribly hard to stop.

This pack’s puppies are now eight weeks old; they are growing fast and you can already see which ones are the troublemakers of the litter. It will only be another two weeks or so until the puppies are strong enough to travel with the pack when it returns to its nomadic ways, so we are soaking it all in and loving every minute of time we have with these critically endangered carnivores.

Just two weeks ago, one of our team found another wild dog den in our traversing area – this is unheard of. To have access to two wild dog dens with puppies is incredible and to be honest an absolute luxury. This den consists of 11 adults and 10 puppies – so in total we have had access to 49 wild dogs this last month. Truly a magical position to be in. We believe these puppies are a week ahead of the other pack, just as inquisitive and entertaining. The adults are slightly less used to vehicles and definitely have a comfort zone which we don’t push, so we enjoy them from a good distance that their behaviour and activity is not affected.

Whenever our Guides take guests to either of the dens, you can feel the pleasure and excitement of being able to witness this kind of sight. There are few things that measure up, it truly is magnificent. We are thanking our lucky stars for the magic we’ve been able to witness thus far, it won’t be long before both packs either relocate or go back on the move for good. Every minute has been precious and we feel privileged to have had this time with these incredible painted wolves.

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