Estimates of maned wolf populations are very imprecise. Brazil lists the species as threatened and Argentina considers its maned wolf population endangered. More accurate population surveys within all of the species’ range states are a high priority need for establishing a cogent plan for the conservation of what is believed to be a rapidly declining species. In 2005, White Oak supported a Population and Habitat Viability Assessment study as a first step toward a better understanding of the true status of the population and of its habitat needs.
The maned wolf gets its English name from the long hairs, or mane, on the back of its neck. The species is actually more of a giant “fox on stilts” than a wolf. Small mammals (such as rodents and ground nesting birds) fruit and grass comprise the largest part of their diet. The noticeably long legs allow the maned wolf to see over the long grasses of its preferred habitat as it searches for food items. The long ears are adept at picking up the slightest sounds of its prey. Somewhat gangly and awkward, the maned wolf employs more of a fox-like stalk and pounce method of hunting than the all out chase seen in true wolves.
The natural range includes the lowlands of Bolivia south through central Brazil into Paraguay, Argentina, and northeastern Brazil. Preferred habitat includes grasslands, marshes and scrub.
The strong “skunk” odor associated with the wolf is from the spray with which it scent marks its territory. Seldom active during the day, the maned wolf prowls its home range from the late evening hours through early morning. Although pairs are monogamous and will share a territory, the maned wolf is a solitary animal, except during the breeding season. Gestation is approximately 65 days, after which 2-4 pups are born. The male helps provide care for the young, even regurgitating food for the pups.
The main threat to maned wolves in the wild is habitat loss. Many of their grasslands have been burned to make room for agriculture and the maned wolf is no longer found in some parts of its original range. Hunted for sport as well as persecuted for allegedly killing small livestock and chickens, maned wolves are becoming an ever rarer occurrence in the wild.