Even for the one’s who regularly visit the forest, witnessing a hunting attempt is still not a common sight. Especially in places like India where the forests are thick and dense, the probability of witnessing such moments are very less. That was probably a lucky day for me, I got to witness and document a failed hunting attempt made by two Indian wild dogs aka Dholes. This was the second time I came across a hunting attempt by Dholes, however, the first time I failed to document the sequence.
This was documented on August 2014, from the Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka. On that morning, it rained a lot and the forest was fresh and green, the safari tracks were a bit wet and slushy. As expected after the rain, the morning safari was not very productive in terms of sightings and the evening safari started without many expectations. One hour of driving into the forest with no sightings what so ever, just when we are about to lose hope, we came across this Dhole pair.
Dholes are known to be highly social animals, they live and hunt in large clans. A pack of Dholes can easily have 5 to 20 individuals (sometimes even more), but on that particular day we were surprised to see only two of them together. There might be a possibility that these two just strayed for a short while from the pack. Whatever it is, they both certainly seemed to be on a mission. The otherwise very lazy ones looked very active and was searching for something.
It was already 5:20 PM and since we were left with just 1 more hour, we decided to spend the remaining time tracking this pair. For some reason, Dholes walk on the safari road for very long distances. And even in this case, since they kept walking on the safari road, it was easy for us to keep following them. They were not bothered by our presence and kept walking straight looking at all directions and appeared as if they were following a scent trail.
At one particular point, the two split their ways and went in two different directions. While one still followed the main road, the other one took a slight deviation and went into the bushes. But both still appeared to be following some scent trail.
After about 100 metres, the two came together again and started walking on the main road. With all this, there were more than enough and clear indications that something is going to happen. The driver and guide were almost sure that the Dholes are going for the hunt. At this point, we went ahead of them and waited at the road end where there is a junction of 3 roads. From there we had a clear sight of these two Dholes and a small herd of Spotted Deers happily grazing on the other side of the road.
We parked the vehicle on the side of the road, switched off the vehicle and all set to witness the hunt. The Dholes started spending more time smelling and following the scent trail. They both started walking in the same path and were stopping at the exact same locations to smell.
When they were hardly 50 metres away from this herd, the two again split and took two different routes as they earlier did. While one kept walking on the main road this time the other one disappeared into the bushes.
As the Dhole came closer, the Spotted deers were alerted and they all started seeing in the same direction the Dhole was coming from. Each one of them was almost on their marks to start running any moment.
That is the moment, the Dhole on the road decided to go for it. It went off the road and started approaching the deers in full speed from behind the bushes. At this moment, there were no signs of the other Dhole who went inside the bushes.
Suddenly the second Dhole appeared from another side of the bushes and started chasing them.
The Spotted Deer herd (mostly well-grown stags) proved too good for the Dholes and they all disappeared in a flash. Clearly there were no younger or weaker ones in this group which are usually the targets.
After chasing them for about 50 metres, both Dholes gave up on their chase and stopped on the main road to catch some breath. They both certainly appeared very dejected.
Though this was a failed attempt, it was amazing to see how these two coordinated the hunt and the way they came up with a last-minute plan to split and attack from two different sides is mind blowing. At no point of time, they both appeared to have any direct communication, but when the moment came they had their plan ready and implemented the same.
Life is not easy for any predator in the wild. Even the likes of Tigers, Lions and Leopards see success once in 15-20 hunting attempts. With all their strength and strategy, they still need the luck to be on their side to get the food and Dholes are no different. Unlike most predators, Dholes see more success only when they hunt in large packs and this incident is clearly not the regular way they go about getting their food.
With their stomach looking so empty, they certainly appeared to be desperate. Hope they made their meal that day…