The Maned Wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) is a species in the dog (Canidae) family, but they have a pretty distinctive look. While their name suggests they are a wolf, they have a red coat, with black legs, and a fox-like head with large ears. But, they are neither a fox or a wolf, and belong to their own Genus. The Maned Wolf has a distinctly tall and lean look, with really long legs. Like strangely long legs. Seriously, one of the main reasons I love these creatures so much are their bizarrely long legs. Their tall lean stature combined with their mane (the standing fur on the back of their necks) makes them one of the coolest looking canines out there.
The Maned Wolf live in Central South America, and are found in grasslands and forest1. They have home ranges that can be as large as 20-30 square kilometers, or about 8-12 square miles1. They are omnivores, with their diet consisting of small mammals, insects, reptiles, and birds, as well as fruits and plants1,2. One of the biggest components of their diet consists of lobeira, which means “wolf’s fruit” or “fruit of the maned wolf”1.
Their conservation status is near threatened as they have experienced habitat loss as their natural habitat gets converted to agricultural land2.
In captivity, breeding of these wolves is not very successful. One of the issues is that Maned Wolves raised in captivity at conservation centers or zoos do not exhibit normal parental behaviors or parental care. Dr. Songsasen and researchers at the Conservation and Research Center wanted to study environmental enrichment in captivity and their effect on Maned Wolf behavior3. They found that when Maned Wolves have more environmental enrichment, the most successful being the ability to “hunt” mice (find dead mice hidden around their enclosure), they exhibit an increase in natural behaviors like exploratory behavior3. This suggests that environmental enrichment and hunting in captive Maned Wolves may result in them behaving more like wild wolves, which may in turn help them exhibit more parental behavior like wild wolves3.
There are some conservation projects out there working to help protect the Maned Wolf. The WWF is trying to preserve Maned Wolf habitat in Brazil and the Atlantic forest region2. Dr. Songsasen works with a collaborative effort involving the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, the Instituto Pró-Carnivoros, and the National Research Center for Predator Conservation in Brazil to better understand Maned Wolf behavior and conservation, as well as improving breeding attempts with captive Maned Wolves4.