Zoo Licenced and Garda Vetted
Wild dog (lycaon pictus) Painted wolf
My first vision of wild dogs was seven pairs of ears sticking out from the grass surveying the area. Twitching from left to right each ear uses nineteen different muscles. As well as hearing they are also used to cool off and beat off flies. They sat there watching and as we approached, when we got too close a few growls and low barks told us this was far enough. Although great hunters and powerful in their own right were shy and inclined to move away as we encroached on their territory. Territory is marked by a very distinctive musky scent which seemed to me to be a mixture of urine with a stench of rotting flesh.
Hunting takes place mainly at dusk and dawn, this is when they come into their own. Hunting in a pack they are not concerned stealth or surprise. Wild dogs possess amazing endurance and speed, reaching speeds of thirty plus miles an hour over long distances, they communicate by a series of yelps to coordinate the hunt, eventually wearing out their victim and grappling them to the ground for the final kill. They have a bite force greater than that of a lion. With a kill rate of 70 – 90%, they know what they are doing.
It was interesting to watch the pack, only the dominant male and female raised their leg when urinating, it is easy to recognise the dominant dogs by their demeanour.
In the pack the males are related to each other and females to one another though the males and females are not related. Most packs contain 7 to 10 adults, only dominant male and female reproduce with litters of 2 -19 pups. Litters are left in dens underground previously dug by aardvarks. Pups are weaned by the males by regurgitating food. As pups grow they are the first to eat after the kill while adults defend the pups from scavengers. The injured, or old dogs are left to care for the pups and are fed by the pack, this shows a caring side to these wild animals which is a kin to our domesticated dogs. Their complex social structure shows the intelligence they possess.
As I sit here with my 14 year old almost deaf and blind boxer at my feet and as she breaks wind for the umpteenth time. I see how although she possess many of the traits of the wild dogs, even in her prime would not have survived 5 minutes in the wilderness. She only likes toast with butter and pedigree chum and can neither use a toaster nor a can opener!
On a more sober note we spent a lot of time this January tracking these dogs. They had radio collars which after much searching with an antenna allowed us find and check on the pack twice daily. The pack had eight dogs and each day we took notes on their behaviour and condition. When I arrived back in Ireland I got busy down loading my photos onto the computer and was happy with one particular photo of the alpha male and female dogs walking side by side. The next day I was knocked back to find that both had been killed by poachers using snares. Besides the cruelty and complete shock and pointlessness of their death, the amount of time and energy, care and resources the Wildlife act group put into these dogs was erased. These people work from 4.30 am till 8 pm seven days a week with little funding and others destroy this work out of pure greed in such a horrible way.
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