Monday, October 5, 2015

Ready or not, here we come!...well, maybe not.

Remember playing hide-and-seek as a kid? The countdown from ten while everyone else ran off to find the perfect hiding place: the dark corner of the hall closet, the heavy curtains in Dad’s office, or the tight space under your brother’s bed. Then came the anticipation, searching every corner for signs of disturbance: a door not fully closed, an upturned rug, maybe even a whispered “shhhh, she’ll find us”... Until finally, the sweet reward of discovering a friend with a sudden “ha! found you!” as they reluctantly untangle themselves from the closet’s winter coats, refusing to believe their hiding space had been uncovered.

Well, out here in Serena, the South Clan hyenas also love to play hide-and-seek. A lot. You would think because we can track, we have an unfair advantage: anytime we drive near collared hyenas, our receiver picks up the collar’s radio signals and we can (in theory) follow that signal straight to the hyena. Easy, right?

Not exactly. We might have technology on our side, but the collared South hyenas have a few tricks up their sleeves, like:

rock fields,


or bushes.

Essentially, those tricky hyenas like to hide in all of the places we can’t get to safely. In recent weeks, tracking in South has been one big, unfruitful game of hide-and-seek. We’ll pick up a signal for say, Taj Mahal (a very enthusiastic hider) and start to track, driving in the direction of the strongest signal. It grows louder as we close in, and that familiar anticipation flickers in our stomachs: we’re on the verge of discovering our hyena! We get closer, and closer, and then...

Bushes. We’re staring at thick, impassable bushes and no hyena. The signal is blaring in the receiver’s headphones, as if to say, “She’s here! She’s right here! Why can’t you find her?” Our excitement levels drop immediately to zero when we realize we can’t follow the trail any further. Taj Mahal has bested us and won this round (we often imagine her snickering just beyond the border of the bushes). We acknowledge defeat, stating “no vis” into our recorders, and carry on.

The collared hyenas in South win most rounds of hide-and-seek, whether using bushes, rock fields, or culverts to their advantage. But recently, we have claimed a few victories, each with a “ha, found you!”, a hyena sighting, and the sweet feeling of triumph. Much like the discovered friend in the closet, skulking over his defeat, our hyena doesn’t usually stick around long enough for us to revel in the win.
Marten, just overjoyed we'd found her.

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