Sambar Battle Wild Dogs in Bandipur

Sabyasachi Patra

Sabyasachi Patra
The sambar occasionally even tried to strike at the wild dogs with their forelegs!

Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'

Quite an amazing natural history moment captured by the photographer that seemed to have lasted a full night!

In September 2012, on an evening safari in Bandipur National Park, I witnessed a truly amazing natural history moment, perhaps the finest in all of my wild travels across India. We had planned to check the Kavare Katte, a large water body, before exiting the park. From a distance, we could see that a few sambar standing in the water. As we approached closer, we realized the enormously tense situation that had been playing out. The sambar had entered the waters to avoid a pack of about 12-15 wild dogs. Standing knee deep in the water, they were able to stay away from the wild dogs, which were too short to be able to successfully hunt sambar in the water.

The wild dogs started running around the water hole, perhaps in an attempt to disorient the sambar. The sambar herd was an all hind herd, with one fawn. The mother and the fawn were in shallower waters, along with another sambar. The two adults were kicking up the waters with a repeated blows from their forelegs. This seemed to be holding off the wild dogs. The defensive posture suddenly turned into an attack. While the mother stood protectively close to the fawn, hiding it as much as possible from the wild dogs, the second sambar suddenly lunged out of the water and charged the wild dogs, as if to butt them down with its forehead. While some of the dogs moved away to avoid the attack, others stood further away and watched the scene calmly. While the lone sambar continued its thrusts towards the wild dogs, seizing the chance, some of the other wild dogs approached the mother and the fawn. The sambar regrouped and at one point, both the mother and the sentinel launched an attack simultaneously on the sambar. Occasionally, the sambar even tried to strike at the wild dogs with their forelegs!

The sun had already set by this time, and the wild dogs seemed to abandon the hunt as it was getting dark. Realizing this, the sambar herd moved out of the water and away from the dogs. But for some reason, the mother and the fawn remained in the waters. Next morning, we came back to the same spot to find the mother and the fawn still in the water, as if frozen. The wild dogs, though out of sight, were not too far away from the water body. Then, as if on cue, the sun shone on the mother and the fawn, and before our eyes, the winners of this battle of attrition stepped out of the water and headed into the jungle.

Do see the entire photo story on the India Wilds website.

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