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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Species Fact Profile: Maned Wolf (Chrysocyon brachyrus)

Maned Wolf
Chrysocyon brachyurus (Illiger, 1815)

Range: Central South America
Habitat: Open Grassland, Scrub, Wooded Savannah
Diet: Fruits, Small Mammals, Birds
Social Grouping: Solitary, Paired
Reproduction: Monogamous, breeding season April-June, 1-5 pups (usually 3) born June-September, weaned at 15 weeks, both parents assist with care of the young, sexually mature and independent at 1 year, usually don't breed until they are 2 years old
Lifespan: 16 Years (Captivity)
Conservation Status: IUCN Near Threatened, CITES Appendix II

  • The largest South American member of the dog family, maned wolves stand 74-78 centimeters and the shoulder, measure 1.2-1.3 meters long, and weight 20-23 kilograms
  • Fur is golden-red with long, black legs (sometimes known as "the red fox on stilts"), the muzzle is also black, while the throat and tip of the tail are white; a strip of black fur runs from the back of the head down the shoulders, standing erect when the wolf is frightened.
  • Primarily nocturnal or crepuscular (active at dusk and dawn), the day is spent inside a den, often in thick brush
  • When digging, maned wolves don't use their claws - they use their teeth
  • Communicate with vocalizations (including whines, growls, and an extremely loud roar-bark) and scent marking, spraying the boundaries of their territory with skunk-smelling urine
  • The fruit that is the wolf's primary source of food is a tomato-like fruit called the lobeira ("wolf's fruit)"), which is believed to provide medical aid against kidney worms
  • Male-female pairs share territory, but remain largely independent of one another
  • Latin name translates to "golden dog with a short tail"... even though the tail is quite long
  • Threatened by habitat loss, road-kills, and disease transmission from domestic dogs; sometimes hunted for body parts believed to have magical properties
  • Early efforts to maintain this species in captivity failed due to poor diet (originally assumed to be primarily a carnivore, like other wild canids); the species is now kept with greater success, but still poses a reproductive and veterinary challenge for zoos

Zookeeper's Journal: The maned wolf is one of the world's largest wild dog species; it's also certainly one of the oddest.  From its outlandish appearance to its peculiar, primarily produce-based diet, its a very different animal than the gray wolf that most visitors are familiar with.  The later item is of special note - the relatively non-predatory nature of the maned wolf means that it can be included in mixed-species exhibits to a degree that few other large carnivores can - I've seen them with giant anteaters, capybaras, and Brazilian tapirs - which can make for a very impressive display.  Another striking difference between the maned wolf and other dog species - one less appreciated by zoo visitors - is the smell.  With a musky, skunk-like odor, you can be sure that even if you don't see the maned wolves at their exhibit (which is likely - they love to hide), you'll certainly smell them.

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