110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Lynn Bowen
posted Aug 12, 2013 - 9:11:58am
The rare maned wolf from the semi-open habitat in central South America is not a wolf, fox, coyote, dog or jackal! This barking mammal is the remaining remnant of the prehistoric carnivores. His nickname is "fox on stilts," which suits him, even though it isn't quite accurate. Maned wolves are on the "near-threatened" list, which means they have a very high risk of extinction in the near future.
This beautiful animal has a chestnut coat of fur with a manelike strip of black fur from the back of his head to his shoulders. The 44- to 75-pound animal has a long, pointed muzzle and large erect ears. He stands 26 to 42 inches tall at the shoulder, and his head and body measure 49 inches long. His tail is 28 to 45 inches long, with a white tip.
However, the long, thin legs are the most fascinating feature. They are probably an adaptation through the centuries so the wolf can see over the tall grasses in the places where he lives. The bottom half of each leg is black, making it look short in shadows. The front legs are slightly shorter than the back legs, making running down hills awkward and giving the wolves an odd gait on flat land.
The maned wolf never forms packs, and travels and hunts alone, except at mating time. Another unique trait is the skunklike scent that discourages predators. The life span of these interesting creatures is up to 16 years.
Seventy percent of the maned wolves' diet is the "lobeira fruit," which is a small tomato-like food. The rest of their diet is vegetables, fruit, fish and small mammals. They forage mainly at night.
Learning about and seeing animals at zoos is so much more exciting than seeing them on a TV program or just in a photo. Since I'll never get to visit maned wolves in the savannas of South America, it was a thrill to see one at the zoo.
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at email@example.com.
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