Wild dogs are known to move long distances and need large areas of open space to survive, but this often brings them in contact and conflict with people. This can cause many problems for this charismatic carnivore. Vets from Sanparks Veterinary Wildlife Services, based in Skukuza, were called out in mid October to remove two snares that were seen on two wild dogs in the Stolznek section in southern Kruger National Park (KNP).
The team had to get to the pack of dogs quickly before they disappeared back into the veld. This pack has been under observation by Conraad de Rosner, warden of Mthethomusha Game Reserve, which borders the south western section of KNP. According to Conraad, the problems started for these dogs when they established a den in the Lupisi community area to the north Mthethomusha.
"The people were concerned that a leopard was killing their goats and started setting traps and snares, they didn’t realise it was the wild dogs that were taking their goats as they are easy prey," says Conraad. The pack then moved their den into Mthethomusha and the careful monitoring of the pack and their daily movements continued. Two of this pack had snares previously removed and their wounds treated.
One wound from a snare around the abdomen was so severe that it required surgical treatment. Another of the dogs had been previously spotted with a snare wound but as these animals are both highly mobile and extremely elusive, it makes it very difficult for vets to get close enough to dart them. The pack had moved into Kruger, leaving their nine pups and the alpha female back at the den, on a hunting foray.
"These dogs move between the two reserves and as people set snares along the fences for antelope like impala and duiker, the dogs get caught up as they squeeze through the fences on their way into the KNP" explained Dr Peter Buss from Veterinary Wildlife Services.
Fortunately one of the dogs had a radio telemetry collar and the team was able to locate them deep into the bush, sheltering from the heat of the day. The vets were able to dart the four adults one at a time as they moved between shady spots in the vegetation. The sleeping wild dogs were then taken to a cool area under some trees so the vet team could treat their wounds.
The snares were taken off the two dogs and all the wounds were treated, which included administering antibiotics to prevent any further infections. The old radio collar was removed and a new collar, donated by two concerned private individuals, Heidi Burt and Stuart Bromfield, was fitted to the other male dog.
The vet team also took the opportunity to take tissue, hair and blood samples for the bio-bank and for a current study on wild dog genetics in the KNP. 'When one wild dog is snared and injured, the whole pack is compromised and as wild dogs hunt as a group, the effectiveness of their hunting ability is reduced if they have a pack member who can't keep up or help with a hunt' says Dr Buss.
Veterinary Wildlife Services do have a policy to treat animals such as wild dogs which are listed as an endangered species in the KNP. "As wild dogs are so valuable as a species, our unit will take the time and effort to look for injured pack members and treat them. The good news is that most of these snare wounds, if treated in time, make a full recovery and the wild dog is soon an active member of the pack again" says Dr Buss.
The latest update from Conrad indicates that the pack has moved across the Nsikazi River and are now resident in the KNP and have been seen hunting along the KNP fence in the Matsulu area. The EWT are currently monitoring wild dogs south of Satara in the KNP and if any wild dogs are sighted, please remember to call the Wild Dog Hot line on 076 725 52 42.