You might take a look at this photo and wonder – what is it? A fox on stilts? Some unusual variety of hyena? You wouldn’t be the only person confused by this creature’s strange appearance. But this decidedly unique canid is actually a distant relative to the dog and wolf, a species that split from the family much earlier called the maned wolf.
The maned wolf lives in the the South American grasslands. Though the photos make it look a little awkward, those long legs are actually the perfect adaptation for life in the savannah, allowing maned wolves to run gracefully through the tall grasses and scrub of its territory while retaining an optimal view of the surroundings. This shy omnivore is constantly on the lookout for danger and for small prey – it it has a remarkably catlike grace when hunting and pouncing to catch elusive rodents. It also forages for other foods to supplement its diet, and is known to particularly appreciate a fruit from the tomato family known as the “wolf apple.”
Mostly solitary, the maned wolf mates for life and ranges over a huge territory. It communicates with others with an unusual vocalization known as the “roar-bark,” which you can hear in the video below. Conservation of this species in the wild is very important, as its habitat is being continually encroached upon by human development.