African wild dogs that live in woodland eschew the collaborative long-distance pursuit of prey used by their relatives on grass plains.
Alan Wilson and Tatjana Hubel at the Royal Veterinary College in Hatfield, UK, and their colleagues tracked a pack of six wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) in Botswana's woodland savannah, where most populations of this endangered animal now live. They found that the animals used multiple short-distance attacks in their attempts to capture prey. Unlike in dog packs on the plains, there was no observed cooperation between the dogs other than travelling together and sharing their kills. Although only 15.5% of individual attacks resulted in a kill, sharing of food ensured that all animals ate regularly.
In another paper, the same team modelled the energy use and benefits of this hunting strategy. Whereas the low-cost, short-distance chase of wild dogs is more costly per kill than for individual hunting by cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), this is outweighed by the sharing of prey. The dogs might be better equipped to deal with different habitats than was thought, the authors say.