The Dogs are back in Town
March, April, May 2017

The wild dogs have been in and out of Raptor's View over the last 3 months and many residents have been lucky enough to see them several times - others are still (impatiently) waiting for their turn! This is a special edition of The Raptor dedicated to these wonderful sightings - thanks to all those who sent in photos, videos and experiences.

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photo - Rob Severin, RV240 - sunset, 31 March 2017
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photo - Byron Wright - 08.15, 21 April 2017
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photos - Carina Vermaat, RV80 - 16.30, 1 May 2017
Some background information - with thanks to Kevin Leo-Smith, Leadwood Big Game Estate and Grant Beverley, Endangered Wildlife Trust.

In February 2016, as a joint collaborative project between the Endangered Wildlife Trust, Blue Canyon Conservancy and WAG-SA (an advisory group dedicated to the introduction of Wild Dogs into fenced reserves across southern Africa) a pack of 14 dogs were translocated to the Blue Canyon Conservancy.

This pack was 'created' from two unrelated packs in Kwa-Zulu Natal and, after being vaccinated for rabies and distemper, they were then held in a boma in the south of conservancy for some 4 - 6 weeks before being released. In late May 2016 the pack split into 2 packs, one of 11 dogs, the other 3 dogs (1 female and two males). The 11 denned on Madrid and in July the 3 dogs denned on Leadwood Estate very close to the Raptor’s View western fence and were seen by many residents whilst out walking and cycling the fence line - and by others just dog watching. This human activity proved too disruptive and they moved the den site a little further away. The 11 had 9 puppies while the Leadwood 3 had 7 puppies.

As expected in late October both packs were mobile all over the Blue Canyon Game Conservancy and eventually expanded their range to pass in and out of the fences visiting neighbouring estates like Raptor’s View, Zandspruit and Khaya Ndlovu. Unfortunately they also passed through nearby community areas and some individuals picked up snares and there were several mortalities. The GPS collar on an adult female from the larger pack (colloquially known as the Blue Canyon or Madrid pack) was removed to prevent irritation from her snare wound. This pack is mostly on the conservancy and passes through our estate less frequently.

The Leadwood pack (again not a formal identification name) have been seen regularly on Raptor's View over the last few months and appear to be a more 'relaxed' pack and are now believed to be mostly settled on Jejane Private Nature Reserve. An adult male in that pack has a collar but this is a VHF radio collar so no GPS data is obtained.

Dog Diaries - Cat Earnshaw, RV236
wild dog I have been incredibly fortunate with wild dog sightings over the last few months... it all started in early March when an impala ran past our office window closely followed by a single dog! We dashed out to see the action but they were in the thicket hidden from view but we certainly heard the kill; and then just a few minutes later that dog returned leading the rest of the pack – we saw them run across the top of our driveway into the kill site. They vocalised their usual excitement - it was amazing to hear.

A week later we saw them again - twice in one day - both on Raptor's View near the traverse gate and again later on neighbouring Khaya Ndlovu.
A little later in March, we bumped into dogs walking the Lion & Buffalo trail in the morning and returned later that afternoon, with Joburg city friends, hoping to find them again. We heard them and following tracks and sounds we bumped into the pack with an impala kill and ended up just meters away from them - the excitement (and some nervousness from the city folk) was tangible!
There is a great audio file (extracted from video) of the excited dogs on this kill (posted on the 'news' page of the website).
Click HERE to listen

Fast forward to 6th May - a loud distress call followed my split second sighting of the dogs in our drive way; they had brought down a young kudu female but with a struggle she managed to break free and run down the side of the house. We rushed out onto the deck, but the dogs were nervous – they were not the same pack that I had encountered before – so we backed off a bit to let them be. They killed her up against our boma wall and dragged her further into the bush, where 9 dogs lost no time in demolishing her. One of the dogs was standing guard and barking warningly at us watching the action from the deck. It was fairly horrific to watch, but at the same time so wonderful to be able to be in the middle of these amazing creatures doing what they do to survive and with such precision. I have seen many kills, and even though this classes as the goriest it is certainly the quickest; it was only about 20 minutes from when we first saw them in the driveway to the time they were done and on their way – no wonder it is so hard to see these wonderful animals, they are so efficient and focused.
Click HERE to see the video (posted on the 'news' page of the website)

Dramatic Dog Days - Mark Lotwis & Lisa Konwinksi , RV212
On March 19 we were excited to see a pack of about 6-7 dogs with an impala kill just off the Buffalo trail at dusk. I took cell phone video footage keeping a reasonable distance away; but the video ends with one of the dogs walking towards me, getting as close as about 20 feet, (which was slightly unnerving!) to pick up a nearby leg bone that I hadn't noticed.
Click HERE to see the video (posted on the 'news' page of the website)

On 2 May at dusk, we, along with Michael and Glynis Brooke, RV200 were lucky enough to witness a pack of seven wild dogs pursue a young female waterbuck at Hamerkop Dam. The dogs chased the waterbuck into the water where she initially kept a safe distance in the middle by treading water while the dogs circled the edge of the dam. The waterbuck eventually tired and drifted towards the edge, close enough for the dogs to take turns swimming out to her to continue their attack. She fought off the first few attempts but was weakening, so eventually the dogs took turns at pulling her to shore where they quickly dragged her up the bank and finished her off. While heart breaking to watch, the circle of life was in play as nature ended one life to ensure the continued survival of another – in this case an endangered species. The whole event only took about 25 minutes from 17.20 to 17.45.
The light was difficult as the sun was going down and it was hard to get fast shutter speeds to freeze the action. So I took some frames from the video (Photos #15-20) which are blurry but tell a crucial part of the story when the dogs pulled the waterbuck out of the water.
There are a lot of photos but it is such a great sighting, they all need to be seen! Eds
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A note of caution - although there have been no reports of wild dogs harming people it is always wise to remember that they are wild animals and care should be taken when out on foot or cycling, particularly when with young children. Being an observer and not a participant should always be the aim when viewing and interacting with nature especially when animals are feeding - whether they are wild dogs or dwarf mongoose.