Hot on the “tail” of a jackal

Last week, Prof. Jeremy Seekings, Director of the Center for Social Science Research, and Kai Fitchen, field technician for the Karoo Predator Project, went back to the Karoo to walk the path one of our male collared jackals travelled on for 6 months. Leroy (the jackal), was collared on the 8th of May 2014 on a farm 40 km south west out of Beaufort West. As a young adult, Leroy could have stayed on his parents’ territory as a helper, but he dispersed to find a place of his own.

Marine after the capture and collaring of Leroy, soon to be released on the farm he was trapped on.

Dispersal is common in immature wild canids. Juvenile male black-backed jackals are known to disperse over big distances (i.e. 116 km – Ferguson et al. 1983; 40 km – Humphries et al. 2016) and Leroy travelled over more than 200 km and crossed more than 40 farms.

General view of Leroy’s journey across the Karoo, from the Beaufort West district to the Klein Karoo.

Even if dispersion is less known in adult jackals, it also occurs: a recently published paper by Humphries et al. (2016) about jackals in the Midlands of KZN mentions one adult male jackal that dispersed over 150 km during winter and spring and then settled down into a home range he maintained in the following summer and autumn, just like young Leroy.

Every day for a week, Jeremy and Kai explored the farms where Leroy spent a lot of time and was most active, they searched the areas where he crossed the fences between farms and how the terrain changed during his journey. They talked to the farmers about why Leroy would suddenly turn around when he did, trying to understand more about the jackal’s choices. They investigated the very different landscapes from lush meadows in the Swartberg to very barren and overgrazed lands where Leroy went to, in the search of explanations to his movements. The only two geographical barriers Leroy did not cross are the N1 and the Swartberg.

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Jeremy and Henk discussing Leroy’s journey on his farm.

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Jeremy, photographed by Kai Fitchen, while following Leroy’s path on a farm in the central Karoo.

Jeremy and Kai followed fences to find out passages where Leroy could have crossed.

Leroy followed this road leading to Anysberg Nature Reserve for a while, but actually did not go into the Reserve itself.

Jeremy and Kai will present Leroy’s journey and their findings during the Karoo Parliament in Laingsburg (14-16 September 2016). We hope to see you all there!

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