Applying International Dog Day To Fossil Rim

Tye Chandler :
Posted August 26, 2019

Every year on August 26, the world celebrates International Dog Day.

This occasion recognizes all dog breeds and serves to help galvanize the public to recognize the number of dogs that need to be rescued each year from public shelters. We may not exactly be home to dogs at Fossil Rim, but we definitely have some species that we can spotlight on this day.

Red wolves (pictured) are critically endangered, while Mexican wolves are endangered. Domestic dogs, which sometimes faces issues relating to poor care from their owners, still have a much easier life than wolves living in the wild.

Let’s learn more about those animals from Carnivore Specialist Tessa Townsend. First, she contrasts dogs to wolves, which in our case applies to American red wolves and Mexican wolves. Next, she delves into the world of maned wolves, which are actually unique and have many differences from wolves and dogs.

“Although domestic dogs and wolves share a high percentage of DNA, there are significant differences between the two. Physically, wolves have much stronger teeth for capturing and eating prey. Wolves also tend to have more pointed ears, as well as larger paws and more lean muscle.

Domesticated dogs commonly form bonds with their owners, but wolves have kept their wild, shy attitudes toward humans and will more than likely keep as much distance from us as possible.

There are key differences when it comes to intake of nutrition. Dogs have evolved as omnivores to eat more similarly to humans. Wolves are true carnivores with gastrointestinal systems that can process raw meat and go longer in between meals.

Wolves know they’ll most likely have to wait a long time before their next meal, so they gorge themselves when they do have food opportunities. They can eat up to 20 pounds in one sitting, whereas dogs typically eat a cup of kibble in the morning and another cup in the afternoon.

Compared to dogs, wolves tend to have more pointed ears.

Significant differences among wolves and domestic dogs occur behaviorally. Dogs rely heavily on humans and have evolved to the point that they cannot adequately survive without us. Wolves, on the other hand, are wild and can fend for themselves.

With this difference comes different attitudes toward humans. Domesticated dogs commonly form bonds with their owners, but wolves have kept their wild, shy attitudes toward humans and will more than likely keep as much distance from us as possible.

Domestic dogs can breed several times throughout the year, whereas wolves only breed once a year. Mexican wolves have a breeding window of February to March.

Breeding and pup care is another key difference. Domestic dogs can breed several times throughout the year, whereas wolves only breed once a year. Additionally, wolf litter sizes average 4-5 pups and are typically smaller than the domestic dog average litter size of 5-6 pups. Although wolf pups and domesticated dog pups are both weaned at about two months of age, wild wolf pups mature much faster in order to be able to survive in the wild.

Wolves usually have more lean muscle than dogs.

Domestic dog pups certainly have an easier life, since they can depend on humans to care for them through all stages of growth. In a wolf pack, pup care and nourishment is given by both the pack mother and father, and potentially even older siblings, if the pups have them. Domestic dog pups are typically given care and nourishment from only the mother.

Wolves generally have larger paws than dogs.

Maned wolves are canids, so they do share similarities with wolves and domestic dogs. However, they are a unique species and have many differences, too. Physically, these tall, lean and orange animals look very different from wolves and dogs.

Whether she is preparing meals for the omnivorous maned wolves (pictured) or the red and Mexican wolves that are carnivorous, Carnivore Specialist Tessa Townsend makes sure these Fossil Rim residents get the nutrition they need to be healthy, viable contributors to the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for their respective species.

They are more physically comparable to foxes – just a lot taller. Maned wolves also have fused third and fourth digits, which gives them a unique footprint. They are omnivores, as half of their diet is plant material and the other half is meat.

Whether it is a peanut butter treat or some banana slices, maned wolves are omnivores and interested in many food items that do not appeal to other wolves.

Their native land in South America provides them with a fruit called lobeira, which makes up a large portion of their diet. This fruit is so unique to maned wolves that it has become known as the ‘wolf apple’ or ‘wolf fruit’.

Maned wolves are more physically comparable to a fox than a dog or other wolves, but they are much taller.

Maned wolves also differ from wolves and domestic dogs in their social behavior. They are solitary animals and only partner up when they breed and raise offspring. Similarly to conventional wolves, they only breed once a year, but do breed in different months; red wolves and Mexican wolves breed from February to March, while maned wolves breed from late September to early January.

While other wolves have a pack mentality and strongly value companionship, maned wolves are solitary and only partner up to breed and raise offspring.

The vocalization of a maned wolf is also much different than most wolves and dogs. While wolves and dogs produce barks and howls, maned wolves utilize load roar-barks.

As opposed to most canids, maned wolves pace. This means they bring both their front and back legs on the same side of the body up simultaneously, alternating sides like a horse.

Lastly, maned wolves have a different stride than most canids. They pace, which means they bring both their front and back legs on the same side of the body up simultaneously, alternating sides like a horse. This movement allows them to travel through long grass that they inhabit more efficiently.”

Maned wolves breed and have puppies at a different time of year than the red and Mexican wolves at Fossil Rim. Maned wolf pups undergo a drastic change in appearance as they grow.

All three of these species can potentially be visited at Fossil Rim on a Behind-the-Scenes Tour.

-Tessa Townsend, Carnivore Specialist

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