Wild Dogs

Wild Dog - Description:
These animals are intensely social, medium-sized pack-hunting dogs. Very large rounded ears on a hyaena-like head, with a blunt, heavy muzzle and dark eyes. The wild dog has a lean body, deep chest and long legs. Its coat (approximately 40 mm long and tricoloured: black, white and yellow) is unique to each animal, with the only consistent markings being a white tip to the tail and a black muzzle. All dogs have a strong, disagreeable body odour. Adults measure 60-75 cm at the shoulder and weigh 20-30 kg.
Wild Dog – Habits, Behaviour and Social Organisation:
Wild dogs are diurnal but hunt on moonlit nights. The pack consists of a breeding pair and non-breeding adults that all help to provide food for the pups and the lactating female by regurgitating. The average number in a pack is 10 but can be up to 60 animals. Hunting ranges can be up to 1500-2000 km² and are dependant on prey availability. During the denning period (2-3 months) the hunting range becomes smaller (50-250 km²). The ranges are not defended or scent-marked at all but the alpha male and female will scent-mark around the den. The pack members greet each other intensely and show excessive submissive behaviour by infantile begging, negating the need for aggression. Dogs habitually rest in heaps and social rallying almost always precedes a hunt.
Wild Dog – Food and Hunting:
Wild dog are specialised as pack-hunters of medium-sized antelope (15-50 kg) but will take anything from scrub hares to zebra and may also scavenge other predator’s kills. Pack-hunting is so successful that a large pack can catch up to 85% of the game it chases twice a day. After a social greeting the dogs move off. As soon as they choose their quarry, one dog leads the chase and the rest stream out behind. The dogs’ success is due to their endurance; although their top speed is 64 kph and slower than an antelope, they can maintain 48 kph for up to 5 hours. Most prey is overtaken within 1½-3 km when the prey is grabbed from the rear (some dogs tearing at the belly and hindquarters) and bowled over or thrown to the ground and quickly disembowelled. When a large herd is encountered the dogs will chase several animals until one picks out a slower quarry; the rest of the pack then abandon their own chases and concentrate on the same animal. Feeding takes place quickly and if puppies are present at the kill they are allowed to eat first.
Wild Dog – Reproduction and Offspring:
Wild dogs are seasonal breeders (May-June); the gestation period is 60-73 days and the average litter size is 10 puppies. Puppies are born in a den which the pack may return to every year. Only the alpha pair breeds; if a subordinate female does give birth, the alpha female may kill the puppies or stop them from being suckled. The alpha female keeps all other dogs away from the den until the pups are able to eat solid food (3-4 weeks). Puppies venture out of the den at 3 weeks; the mother will call them out with a whine for suckling. They are weaned at 5 weeks and food is provided by the rest of the pack on return from a hunt. The puppies greet the returning dogs, whining and begging, and lick and bite at the corner of their mouths inducing them to regurgitate. By 8-10 weeks the pack leaves the den and the puppies accompany the adults to kills but do not participate for many more months. They are sexually mature at 20 months (males) and 22 months (females). Males will remain in the natal pack and the females will emigrate to join other packs or to form new ones.
Wild Dog - Adaptations:
Wild dogs have the endurance to run down prey (can maintain 48kph for up to 5 km). Hunting cooperatively increases their chances of success. They are adapted to dealing with heat stress while running at high speeds for extended periods.
Wild Dogs – Population and Distribution:
Wild dogs are restricted to a few South and East African countries and even fewer Central and West African countries. Estimated population: 3000-5500.
Wild Dog Population in Namibia:
The latest estimate in Namibia was 355-601. (Namibia Large Carnivore Atlas – July 2004).
Wild Dog – Conservation Status:
IUCN Red List: Endangered. Population trend: decreasing. CITES: Not listed.
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