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.
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.
By Michele Hofmeyr