Wednesday, February 5, 2020

IDing hyenas: rainy season edition

Hi all!

We are currently in the midst of an “enhanced” rainy season, giving us all a chance to catch up on our favorite TV shows and movies while we’re stuck in camp. Of course, the rainy season does have some benefits. Since we collect and treat rain water to use for drinking/washing water, we haven’t had to get water from the nearby lodge for the past two months or so, and… well… that about sums up all of the benefits of the rain.

Unfortunately, the rain primarily brings two things: tall grass and mud. Lots of it. Our hyenas love to pamper themselves with mud baths, but we are less enthused about it. Not only have we gotten our Cruiser stuck numerous times while out on obs, but the mud also conveniently covers up all of the spots on our hyenas, making IDing a little trickier than usual. Just the other week, we saw 16 of our North hyenas on what appeared to be a carcass. However, with the tall grass and our inability to off-road due to mud, pictures from the session looked like this: 

 Although it’s almost impossible to record any behaviors for sessions like this, we still try to at least ID all of the hyenas who are present. So, let’s get started! First, we’ll do the easy one:

A collar! Only one of our hyenas in North territory is currently collared: WAFL (Waffles), the former matriarch. Although her collar no longer transmits a signal, it still makes IDing her a piece of cake. 1 down, 15 to go. Let’s zoom in!
While IDing, we usually try to rely on shoulder and leg spots, as multiple hyenas can have similar body spot patterns. However, this pattern is luckily unique to one individual: DEJA (Déjà vu).
Ready for a challenge? Let’s ID this individual:
We’ll zoom in to see the spots a little more clearly…
Unlike DEJA, this is unfortunately not a very unique body spot pattern… carefully looking through our ID binders, we can maybe narrow this down to 3-4 potential individuals. To make it a little easier, here are just two of the contenders: LOBI (Lobster Bisque) and ZIMU (Mzimu):
LOBI - one of the highest-ranking hyenas in our clan (she is one of SOUP's older cubs).
ZIMU - a mid-ranking hyena who belongs to JUDE (Hey Jude). 
Are you able to tell who it is? Luckily, we have another shot of this hyena from a different angle to confirm!
If you squint really hard, you can see three spaced-out spots going down the shoulder of this hyena, making it ZIMU! Another tell-tale sign? One of the other individuals I IDed for this session was actually LOBI, automatically disqualifying her for this round.

Alright, now for the final challenge! Can you ID this individual?

Let’s zoom in to see if that’ll make it easier:
Nope! The mud, tall grass, and stance of this hyena give us little to no spots to use for IDing. In this case, we simply leave the hyena as an unidentified individual, conveniently nicknamed unIDmuddy for this session.

Bonus game: spot the track! 
Another fun side effect of the enhanced rain? Most of our usual tracks have disappeared! Both of these pictures were taken while I was stopped on an actual track in one of our territories – can you tell where I’m supposed to go? 

No comments:

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science