Maned wolf facts
What’s in a name? For this unique animal, it is a wolf in name only. It is however a canid, and therefore related to the wolf. Maned wolves are more closely related to the forest fox and the bush dog (canid species from South America).
Despite this relationship, the maned wolf is the only species in its genus. It has a very different appearance than the wolves we are used to seeing, and more closely resembles a fox than a wolf.
In fact, here’s a fun fact for kids. The maned wolf’s fox-like characteristics – such as a shaggy, white tipped tail and large ears – have earned it the nickname of “fox on stilts.”
The maned wolf is a South American native whose range extends from the Amazon basin rain forest in Brazil to the dry shrub forests of Paraguay and northern Argentina.
Maned wolves have chestnut red pelage over rather large bodies, and black pelage on their long, slender legs, feet and muzzle. They have long red fur covering necks, backs, and chests which they can stand on end to give the appearance of a mane.
The maned wolf also differs from true North American wolves in diet and temperament. These gentle and very timid wolves are solitary by nature. Only during the breeding season would you generally see more than one at a time. The maned wolf is omnivorous, eating a combination of fruits, vegetables and meat. It often preys on small birds, rodents and frogs, and favors fruits such as bananas, apples and avocados.
Why maned wolves are threatened
Much like our native wolves, the maned wolf is misunderstood and widely persecuted. For years it was hunted and killed by farmers who believed that the wolves were killing their poultry and livestock. The maned wolf’s small teeth and jaws make it hard for it to kill large prey, but it is often blamed because of its intimidating size.
The maned wolf is listed as near threatened in its native range. This listing is due to loss of habitat by encroaching human populations, the introduction of certain diseases and a belief that certain of its organs have medicinal healing powers.
Working to save a species
The development of a Species Survival Plan (SSP©) has enabled the breeding of maned wolves in captivity. The SSP© program aims to pair up genetically significant individuals to produce offspring with the greatest genetic variation.
In 1996, the EWC joined the Maned Wolf SSP© as a breeding facility. The first litter of parent-reared pups was born in March of 1998. This was the first litter raised by both parents in a very long time within the SSP©.
The maned wolves in our care
Nina and Nopal are our two maned wolves, Nopal is 8 years old and from the Smithsonian in Washington DC. Nina is 7 years old and from Alexandria Zoo in Alexandria, LA. They get along very well and have a wonderful time exploring their enclosure.
The two maned wolves have very distinct personalities. Nopal is very playful and curious, while Nina is very food-motivated, which causes her to roar-bark when she is waiting for her breakfast.
Our staff, volunteers, and visitors have enjoyed watching these young wolves explore their enclosure. They also receive a lot of enrichment (which they love!) in the form of bones, frozen blood pops, and frozen fruit pops. The two get along well, and share their bones and pops nicely.
The Animal Care Team has been busy preparing them for new Training and Enrichment Experiences that are offered to the public. It is a great way for visitors to meet the maned wolves up close.