Scientific Name: Chrysocyon brachyurus
The first feature you’ll probably notice about this unique animal is its elongated legs, which look almost as though they belong to a much taller animal but got stuck on the maned wolf by mistake! Long legs come in handy whenever this silent, stealthy hunter is tracking down dinner, but they also give the animal a pretty strange appearance—like a large fox on stilts.
Alone in the Woods
Nocturnal and solitary, maned wolves are very shy and tend to avoid interaction with most other animals, including humans and other wolves. They are also monogamous, mating with a single partner for life. A maned wolf couple will come together only during the breeding season (around April) and the females will rear the pups alone.
Maned wolves have no natural predators, but they have suffered greatly from human interference. In addition to being hunted by ranchers, some of their body parts are sought due to their supposed supernatural properties. In particular, the right eye is said to bring good luck. However, many zoos and conservation programs have worked to keep the maned wolf safe, and the species has done very well in captivity.
The maned wolf is classified as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The primary threat to these wolves is habitat destruction caused by agricultural development. This loss of habitat is especially dangerous because it can lead to reproductive isolation if small populations become separated by geographic barriers. Ranchers also regularly kill maned wolves in attempts to protect their livestock.
Maned wolves live in grasslands, plains and both tropical and subtropical forests throughout South America. They can most easily be found in areas of Brazil and northern Argentina.
These omnivorous animals eat a wide variety of plants, fruits and small animals, including birds, reptiles, rodents and other small mammals. Although maned wolves have a reputation as “chicken stealers,” fruits and vegetables comprise up to 50% of their diet.
Despite its name, the maned wolf is actually not closely related to wolves at all. The maned wolf is fairly slender and thin compared to larger, more muscular wolf species. They are usually around 3 to 4 feet long, 2 to 3 feet high at the shoulder and weigh about 50 pounds. The fur coat is mostly golden-red, with some white and black around the muzzle, ears, tail and legs. It also has an obvious black mane, which extends from its head to the top of its shoulders.
It was once thought that the maned wolf developed long legs for additional speed in pursuing and capturing prey. Now, however, many believe that this adaptation primarily evolved to allow the wolf to see over tall grasses, as the animal is always on the lookout for food and danger.