The Maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) is the largest canid inhabitant of South America. This mammal resembles a large fox with reddish fur.
The Maned wolf is found in semi-open and open habitats, especially grasslands with scattered trees and bushes. This mammal is also found in southeastern Brazil (Mato, Grosso do Sul, Sao Paula, Mato Grosso, Minas Gerai and Goias), northern Argentina, Bolivia, east and north of the Andes, Paraguay, and as far southeast as Peru (Pampas del Heath only). The Maned wolf is rare in Uruguay. The Brazilian government (IBAMA) considers the Maned wolf vulnerable while IUCN has listed the mammal as near threatened. This mammal is the only species in the genus Chrysocyon. Locally the Maned wolf is known as aguara guazu, meaning “large fox” in the language of Guarani. In Portuguese it is “lobo guara” and in Spanish it is “lobo de crin”.
Due to this mammal’s appearance and coloration the Maned wolf has been described as “a red fox on stilts”; however the Maned wolf is quite larger than a red fox which belongs to a completely different genus. At the shoulders, the Maned wolf stands to be about 3.3 feet and can weigh about 44-55 pounds. Out of the wild canids, the Maned wolf is the tallest. The wolf’s long legs are most likely an adaptation of its native habitat of tall grasslands.
The fur of the Maned wolf is a reddish-brown to a golden-orange along the sides. The wolf also has long, black legs and a very distinguishing black mane. The wolf’s fur is also marked with a whitish tuft on the tip of the tail and a white “bib” underneath the throat. When threatened, the wolf’s mane erects and enlarges the wolf’s profile displaying aggression.
The Maned wolf’s nickname is “skunk wolf” because of its distinctive odor.
The Maned wolf does not form packs unlike other large canids such as the dhole, gray wolf, or the African hunting dog. This wolf hunts between sundown and midnight by itself. The wolf kills its prey by biting on the back or neck, and if necessary it will shake its prey violently. Territory may be defended and shared by monogamous pairs ranging up to 11.6 square miles, although the wolf’s rarely meet outside of mating season. The wolves create paths as they patrol the territory at night that are often crisscrossed. Sometimes adult wolves may assemble-together if there is an abundant source of food. For example, a patch of grassland cleared by a fire would leave small vertebrate prey exposed to foraging eggs.
To communicate both male and female Maned wolves use their urine, marking their hunting paths, or the place where they have buried their hunted prey. The Maned wolf’s urine is a very distinguishing smell.
From November to February the Maned wolves breed. Gestation can last about 60 to 65 days, and the litter can have up to 2 to 6 black-furred babies, weighing about 16 ounces.
The Maned wolf hunts small to medium-sized prey, including small mammals such as hares and rodents, birds and fish. Some studies have shown that over 50% of the Maned wolf’s diet consists of vegetable matter such as tubers, fruit and sugarcane. Maned wolves that were held in captivity were fed heavy meat diets which developed into bladder stones. Zoos now feed the Maned wolf vegetables and fruits along with meat and dog chow.
The Maned wolf has a symbiotic relationship with plants it feeds on. The wolf carries the seeds of numerous plants and usually defecates on the nests of leafcutter ants. The ants then fertilize their fungus with the dung, and later the ants dispose the seeds onto refuse piles just outside their nest. Because of this process the germination rate of the seeds are notably increased. The giant kidney worm, a possible deadly parasite that can infect domestic dogs, the Maned wolf is susceptible to the giant kidney worm’s infection.
The Maned wolf was once considered a threat to sheep and cattle, though it is now proven false, however the wolf is still a possible chicken thief. The eyes of the Maned wolf were considered to be good luck charms and were hunted for their body parts in Brazil. Now the Maned wolf is classified as vulnerable by the Brazilian government, and is protected from poachers. Maned wolves are also threatened by cars which run them over and loss of their habitat. This wolf can catch diseases from other dogs. The Maned wolf causes little direct threat to humans; this wolf is usually shy and flees when alarmed. The Emas in Brazil and the nation parks of Caraca has protected areas for the Maned wolf. This wolf is represented well in captivity and has been bred well at zoos, especially in Argentina.
The Maned wolf is evidently a survivor from the Pleistocene fauna of large South American mammals. The bush dog (Speothos) is the closest living relative-to the Maned wolf.