Maned Wolf, the largest canid in South America, is a beautiful creature that looks very familiar to a fox but is called a wolf. But it is closely related to well…. neither. It is the only member of its genus, Chrysocyon. Maned Wolves eat other small animals, fruits and vegetables.
The first thing that anyone can tell you is that they mark their territory by leaving power-smelling urine and feces. But the odor that is caused is undeniably strong. Due to this, they have earned yet another name called – “skunk fox”. Interestingly they do not howl but emit loud barks or roar barks (like dogs). A lot of times they do so to let their mate know their location and also to warn other wolves to stay away.
Maned wolves eat small mammals, such as rabbits, insects, wild guinea pigs, and rodents along with fruits, sugarcane, tubers, wolf apple and vegetables. Their tactics to prey are very subtle and sophisticated. They look ever ready with their plans. Their long legs not only help them to run faster but also helps them to leap into the air to capture birds and insects. Their long legs also help them above the tall grass. They tap their foot against the ground to lure the rodents and other small mammals that habitat underground out in the open, and when the road is clear, they kill it. A maned wolf’s activity pattern is almost like that of a teenager. Their peak activity occurs between 8 am and 10 am in the morning and 8 pm and 10 pm during the night. But most of it happens during the night as the maned wolf is a twilight animal. Teenagers can either show a lot of enthusiasm during the morning or mostly during the night, there is literally no in-between.
The maned wolves hunt by chasing its prey or by digging holes. If they are to prey on birds, they do so by jumping high in the air. Around 21% of hunts are successful which is actually pretty less considering that they need to eat up to 2 pounds per day. Maned wolves do not hunt in packs like other wolves or other selected animals do. They kill their prey by biting into their necks or shaking them violently and aggressively.
In general, a maned wolf is a shy animal and flees when alarmed. So, it poses almost little to no threat to humans. It is said that when a maned wolf wants to show dominance or show aggressive nature, they take a wolf-like stance and stand tall on their legs.
A significant threat to the maned wolves is the quick reduction of habitat in accordance with agricultural land. A lot of wolves are killed on roads and then there is another threat from domestic dogs who chase few wolves and can also pass on their diseases. The closest living relative to the maned wolf is the Bush dogs which are found in South America in wet grassland savanna. But since they are very camera shy, (that is what we think) there aren’t many pictures of the famous bush dog.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), there are around 26,000 maned wolves left in the world (wild) and a couple of hundreds in captive breeding programs in the zoo. Historically, a lot of these beautiful creatures were killed because it was believed that the organs of a maned wolf (the teeth) were medicinal. Some were killed because it was also believed that the right eyeball of a maned wolf will bring you luck. Another rumor about them was that they feasted on livestock and chickens but the truth is that they feed on small rodents, fish and some birds. Mostly they are vegetarians. And although the maned wolf is a giant animal, it has small teeth which makes it highly improbable, if not impossible, for it to kill any livestock or chicken.
The good news is that the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) have added the species to their American Species Survival Plan (SSP). Hunting a maned wolf is now illegal in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia. The governments have actively been taking part in the conservation efforts to protect the endangered maned wolves.