There’s jackals in them thar woods

By
November 16, 2011 14:24

TA deals with jackals roaming Park Hayarkon; neighbors complain of howls but municipal vet says nothing to fear.




Black backed jackal [illustrative].

Jackal 311. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Anup Shah)

A group of infiltrators from the West Bank has set up an outpost in a corner of Tel Aviv’s largest park, keeping the neighbors up at night and forcing the municipality to take notice.

City hall isn’t sure when the jackals arrived, but in an e-mail to The Jerusalem Post this week a spokesman said the 20 or so animals are believed to have migrated along the banks of the Yarkon River from Samaria.

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The municipality also said that like every year, it has begun distributing lures across the city that contain a vaccination against rabies, intended not only for the jackals, but also for the hundreds of foxes living there.

The lures, which are about the size of a matchbook, will be set up across the metropolis, from Tel Baruch in the north to the Holon junction in the south, giving some indication of the range of the animals in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.

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According to Dr. Tzvi Galin, chief veterinarian for the Tel Aviv Municipality, the city knows of two packs of jackals in the park, each one numbering around eight animals.

The public has nothing to fear from the jackals; the animals “have food readily available in the park,” Galin said.

“They eat whatever is left in the trash cans by park visitors and whatever else they can forage.”

While he doesn’t believe reports that the jackals go in search of food in the nearby Vatikim neighborhood of Ramat Gan, the city has received some complaints.

“Usually they move around from sunset until right before dawn. It could be that people see them here and there, but not only are they not active during the day, they also don’t come near people or house pets. This is the normal situation, but if someone sees one in the daytime near people, this is something not normal and is worth checking. We recommend people phone 106 [the municipal call center] in such a case.”

Galin added that if a jackal is seen by people out during midday, it could be an indication the animal has rabies, and one should steer clear of it. During the daytime, they normally keep to the burrows they’ve dug in the park.

Other than Yarkon Park, Galin doesn’t know of anywhere in the city where jackals live, but he added that they can travel as much as 20 or 30 km. in a single night in search of food, so they could easily be seen far from the park. While he isn’t completely certain which type of jackal they are, he is confident they are golden jackals (canis aureus), which range from West Africa through the Middle East and over to southeastern Asia.

While they do dart off into the brush like quicksilver when a person gets within a couple of dozen meters, the jackals are very easy to see any night of the week. Optimal viewing hours appear to be from around 4:30 p.m. to right after sunset, and the best spot seems to be at the foot of Tel Grisa, a Crusader-era mound next to the Vatikim neighborhood more commonly known as Mount Napoleon by locals. At this hour they are very easy to spot in almost every direction, and after the sun goes down they can be heard howling at the night sky.

It makes for a fascinating urban experience to stand within easy sight of the Ayalon Freeway, mere steps from an apartment building and a basketball court, as you hear the call of the wild in the moonlight. In the lulls during the howls, the sound of televisions and neighbors washing dishes emanates from the apartments.

The jackals are much smaller than a full-grown Labrador Retriever but significantly larger than “Brigitte Bardot” a Pekingese being led through the park on Tuesday by Ophir and Omer, two 20-something roommates from Ramat Gan.

Ophir said he’d seen the jackals on many occasions diving into dumpsters next to apartment buildings in Vatikim and that he would hold his dog’s leash tight because “she gets very scared of them, so we keep a good distance.”

Ophir’s precautions seem wellwarranted, as a dog such as Ms. Bardot or your average housecat would probably make a quick snack for the scavenging animals.

“We live off of Abba Hillel Street in Ramat Gan and we don’t see them there, but I have friends in the Vatikim neighborhood who say they see them at night all the time running between the buildings,” Ophir said.

He also said he had friends whose dogs chase after the jackals when they encounter them in the park.

Ophir and Omer were walking Ms. Bardot near Tel Grisa next to a gate encircling Hachava, a community garden covering a wide expanse of the park.

Two 18-year-old volunteers, Aviv Haimson and Avishai Rotman, were tooling around the community gardens in a golf cart on Tuesday.

A couple of dozen meters away, two jackals strolled through the garden’s wooden beehives to the fields beyond.

Around the fence, there were several divots that appeared to have been dug by the jackals in order to sneak into Hachava.

“We see them all during the day and they’re out all night long,” said Haimson, adding that they eat whatever they can find.

Haimson said the intruders are constantly trying to get into the community farm’s livestock pen, where chickens, rabbits, parrots and a variety of farm animals are raised, but that they are kept at bay by the guard dog, a mastiff who doesn’t take kindly to jackals.

“I’ve heard that people complain about them, but I don’t think they cause any problems really,” he said.

Ovadia Sofer, a middle-aged resident of Vatikim who lives in a corner building meters from the park and the trail leading to Tel Grisa, had a somewhat different attitude.

“All night long they howl, especially late at night. Around 10 or 11 p.m. they start coming out into the neighborhood looking for food, mainly the foxes, but also the jackals.”

Sofer said the howling happens every night, “doesn’t matter if it’s summer, winter, anytime,” and “it can be pretty disturbing.”

While a jackal’s cry can be a bit offsetting while watching the evening news, the howling of a fox can be a particularly chilling sound, at times akin to a banshee being subjected to shock therapy.

Sofer seemed resigned to accepting the new neighbors.

“I contacted the Ramat Gan Municipality and they said they’d contact the Tel Aviv Municipality, and they said it’s being dealt with. You know how that is.”


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