(This post contains some quite gory photos… As American TV likes to say: “Viewer discretion is advised”!)
Anyone who has been following this blog for long will have realized that one of the major threats to the survival of wild dogs is human-related, namely when the dogs get caught in snares set by poachers (see the last post). Almost 80% of recorded adult mortality in our population is due to snaring.
Nonetheless, wild dogs do occasionally die from natural causes as well, i.e predation of pups by lions, fatal injuries sustained while hunting, contraction of certain diseases and infrequent natural accidents. Here is one such example of the latter – an incredibly sad and unusual thing to witness.
On Saturday evening, Rueben found the Star Pack and confirmed all individuals were there. On Sunday morning, when he re-located the pack in order to show some safari clients, he found one of the adult male dogs, dead from impaling himself on a sharp stick…
African wild dog impaled on a sharp stump
The stump, which entered the dogs body about 30cm
All the other dogs were still around, being reluctant to leave their pack mate, but soon dispersed when we got there. From an investigation of the tracks, it seemed that the dogs had been chasing something at high speed and come over a small rise. The dog would have met the stump face on, without time to stop and it simply went straight through him. Horrific though it is, the dog would almost certainly have died instantly, due to penetration of the stick into his heart and lungs – a kinder death in many ways than that from suffocation in snares.
African wild dog in bizarre natural accident
Fortunately, wild dog experts throughout Africa have confirmed that this is an extremely unusual thing to witness, so luckily it seems that it doesn’t happen all that often.
We removed the carcass, and took samples for genetic analysis as well as the skull for exact age determination. Fortunately the dog was not the alpha male of the pack: March/April is mating time for the dogs, and a death of an alpha at this stage would potentially be disastrous for the pack’s breeding this year.
Back soon – hopefully with something more positive (and less gruesome) to report!