Jackal and Humans

Jackals learn quickly to identify danger.  Stories are told of incredible learning tempo witnessed at the "Jackal University of Life".  Hunters with rifles or dogs, poisoned bait, traps and fencing are "just another day at the office" to the average Black Backed jackal that resides in South Africa.

Around the middle of the 20th century it was formally declared as "problem animal" (together with others like caracal, leopard and Cape fox).  When I was a young boy, the farmers of Namaqualand sold jackal tails to the magistrate's office for half-a-crown a piece.

Yes, unfortunately farmers frequently do have reason to complain.  A significant 30% of jackal killed as problem animals (western Transvaal) were found to have small stock remains in their stomachs.  It was however proved that small stock killed by feral dogs outnumber losses from predators of the wild by a factor 2 in the Eastern Province, and by a factor 5 in KwaZulu-Natal.  And you donít need a doctorate in zoology to identify the culprit by looking at the carcass: on both sides of the windpipe jackal tooth marks will be 1 to 1.5 inches apart, with that of the same sized dog double that width.  My own experience as ex small stock farmer was that stray dogs usually run in pairs or groups, killing for fun, not driven by hunger pains like wild predators.  Feral dogs would also, in their killing frenzy, snap at all body parts of the prey, as opposed to the methodical suffocating technique of jackal and caracal.

It is therefore realistic and fair to state that we should not wage an indiscriminant war against Canis mesomelas per se.  My own crude methods for determining the need for termination is perhaps highly debatable, but at least indicative of an endeavor to appropriate action under circumstances:

If there is evidence of small stock kills, I would concentrate my hunting efforts in the vicinity of, and during the most likely times of attacks.  Ideally I would call from several stands (2 km apart) on adjacent farms for 2 consecutive nights.  Termination of just one leader in an area usually has the desired effect of reverting their hunting patterns away from live stock.

If stock theft is not evident, I would be guided by the abundance or absence of ground nesting birds, rabbits & hare, rodents, small cats, genets, owls & other birds of prey, and small antelope.  This would indicate what impact jackal has on the biodiversity of the area.  It has also been found that Black Backed jackal prey on the young of Aardwolf and Bat-eared fox.  Therefore, abundance of these species in areas with large numbers of termite mounds, would indicate a low population of jackal with no need for culling.

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