Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Maned Wolf - Like No Other Canine

The maned wolf looks like the tallest fox you’ve ever seen, but it’s not a fox at all. In fact, despite being called a wolf, it’s not closely related to the canids we call wolves either. It is thought that the maned wolf split off from its ancestors millions of years ago and developed its distinct size, shape, behavior (and even smell!) to suit its habitat. The maned wolf is so distinct it is actually the only species in its genus!
Photo: Sage Ross
Maned wolves are the tallest wild canines in the world and can be well over three feet tall at the shoulders. They are reddish-orange in color and are named for the erectile manes on their backs which are raised when they are alarmed.
Maned wolf pup
The maned wolf inhabits the open forests, grasslands and savannah of South America. Unlike true wolves, maned wolves do not form packs; they are usually extremely solitary animals that only socialize for mating purposes.

Maned wolves are true omnivores. Though they do hunt small mammals, birds and fish, over 50% of their diet is made up of fruits, vegetables and sugar cane. Maned wolves do not have any natural predators of their own and mainly face threats from feral dogs, automobile strikes and habitat loss.

Maned wolves usually mate for life and together defend a large territory of up to twelve square miles. Despite sharing the same territory, monogamous maned wolf pairs rarely interact with one another directly outside of the mating season. Instead, they use urine to mark hunting paths or buried prey. The urine’s distinct smell, which has been likened to hops or even cannabis, has earned this animal the nickname “skunk wolf”.

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