The maned wolf is undeniably an interesting animal; it’s the largest canid of South America, looks like a fox while being called a wolf, but is in reality neither a fox nor a wolf, and is the only member of its genus. The maned wolf is found in central and eastern South America, and monogamous pairs occupy  a territory of approximately 10 square miles, and due to their size, they remain protected from other carnivores surrounding them. The only animals that have been found to prey on the maned wolf are the puma and domestic dogs. Despite their size and omnivorous status, the number of maned wolves is rapidly declining, with less than 5,000 believed to live outside of Brazil. The main cause for the rapid decline of this animal is human interaction (The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute n.d.).

The maned wolf. Picture credit: The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, 2020.

The maned wolf’s natural range in Brazil overlaps more with agricultural land than protected land, meaning these animals are surrounded by human activity as they go about their daily lives. The close interaction with people, as well as the expansion of agricultural land, puts the maned wolf at risk for elevated stress levels which could contribute to decreasing population numbers. When studying hormone levels from fecal samples, it was found that thyroid hormone levels were elevated in agricultural areas indicating better nutrition, progesterone levels decreased as maned wolves moved away from protecting lands, indicating a dropping level of reproductive success, and glucocorticoid levels increased as wolves moved into areas with more human activity, indicating elevated and prolonged stress. Despite the ease of finding food, the increased human activity is primarily negatively affecting the maned wolf (Vynne et al. 2014).

The heart rate of maned wolves in captivity has also been a subject researchers have been interested in recently. The maned wolf’s heart rate can drop as low as 30 beats per minute, but in moments of extreme stress their heart rate can increase to over 330 beats per minute. Researchers have been observing their reactions and heart rates in response to various activities and loud noises in order to better understand what activities specifically stress these wolves out (The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, 2020). As habitat loss continues, the maned wolf is being forced to interact with humans, and gaining a better understanding of how human activity is impacting this unique animal will hopefully contribute to the continued conservation efforts.

References:

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. No date. The maned wolf. Retrieved April 24 2022 from https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/maned-wolf.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. 2020. A Heart to Heart with Maned Wolves . Retrieved April 24 2022 from  https://nationalzoo.si.edu/conservation/news/heart-heart-maned-wolves.

Vynne, C., R. K. Booth, S. K. Wasser. 2014. Physiological implications of landscape use by free-ranging maned wolves (Chrysocyon brachyurus) in Brazil. Journal of Mammalogy 95: 696-706.

 

 

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