Friday, December 27, 2013

Hippo ribs- it's what's for breakfast.

This is Fuzz, a subadult male in Serena North. This hippo died over a month ago and has been rotting in the water in this culvert ever since. This doesn't deter our hyenas however, they know that ribs can still be a great source of food.
Although Fuzz didn't cache these hippo bones (the hippo died in this spot) hyenas have been observed to store food underwater and return to it days later. Hyenas have also been seen to catch fish in shallow waters. Somehow hyenas are able to detect food in completely murky water- we're not sure if they're feeling for it with their paws or snout, or if they can smell it, or if they're just using their excellent memories.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Just how far is Waffles falling?

More updates on our favorite alpha (or not?) female from Serena North clan. After a week of rain we are finally back out in the field and it looks like Waffles and LCS have moved to Schiphol Den up on top of the hill (and right next to the road) near camp. Unfortunately it looks like Waffles has definitely dropped in rank, this morning she approached Sherman (the 2nd highest ranking adult female) and a subadult male named Fuzz with her ears pinned tightly back. The message here couldn't be clearer.

What was interesting was that when Sherman walked away Waffles proceed to greet with Fuzz with her ears back. In this photo you can see Waffles lifting leg for him while his ears are clearly forward. Fuzz is a mid/low ranking natal male and if Waffles is behaving submissively to him then she not only has lost her spot as alpha, but dropped quite far indeed. Or it could be that Sherman's presence had Waffles just acting submissively to everyone, only time will tell for sure. 

I also recently learned that Tinsel's and Mistletoe's (two mid ranking females) mother, Elf, was alpha at a point in Serena North's history before RBC was alpha. It seems then that North has a long tradition of an unstable hierarchy. Talek West clan (the clan that has been under study for 25+ years) has exhibited a very stable hierarchy, so we're not sure if Serena North's instability is unusual or if it is perhaps related to the location of Serena North in prime riverside (high prey density) territory, or some other unknown factors.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Waffles has babies!

Waffles, the matriarch of North clan, has recently shown us her two new cubs; the greatly anticipated Mrs. Butterworth and Aunt Jemima or Mrs. B and Aunt J for short. (Waffles' lineage is "syrups").

We're hoping they're girls not just so that they'll match their names but also because we want Waffles' to maintain her place as alpha. With her coalition partner Peepers dead and Eleanor only mid-ranking Waffles' has only her daughter LogC to support her reign. Sherman, the second highest ranking adult female  has a daughter and two granddaughters (still subadults) to back her up. Recently we've seen some worrying behaviors; when LogC or Waffles has been interacting (individually) with both Sherman and Hooker we've seen them acting submissively. However when Waffles or LogC interacts with Sherman or Hooker one-on-one their ranks still hold. Sherman is a tough hyena who could definitely be making moves for the alpha position.

We love Waffles because she is so benevolent and friendly to the low-rankers but we need to see her asserting herself more if she wants to maintain her rank! Also of note: Waffles' is sharing her natal den with the second lowest ranking adult female hyena LCS (so named for her ear damage, a left "c" slit). Even though Waffles has risen in rank while LCS remains low ranking they are still best buds.

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science