January 20, 2014

Short-eared Dog (Atelocynus microtis)

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Short-eared Dog

The Short-eared Dog (Atelocynus microtis) is a rare, little known canine. Unlike various species of fox, wolves, and other canines on the planet, this one is very difficult to see and even more difficult to study. It only occurs in the dense rainforests of central and western Amazonia and doesn’t appear to be common in any parts of its range. In appearance, the Short-eared Dog looks a bit like a wild feline and has proportions that are somewhat similar to those of a Jaguarundi. Its dark gray coloration is also rather similar to the colors of a Jaguarundi and when seen in the dim recesses of its rainforest habitat, can even be mistaken for that small cat.

However, the Short-eared Dog is a bit larger than the Jaguarundi and like most other canines, has a longer snout and bushier tail. Although very little is known about the natural history of the Short-eared Dog, this solitary hunter is believed to forage for small animals in primary rainforest and bamboo stands. Based on the few sightings of this little known mammal, it may also have a preference for hunting along creeks and other wetland habitats.

This rare animal seems to be restricted to wild, extensive areas of rainforest and more sightings seem to come from southeastern Peru than from other parts of its range. The Short-eared Dog has been seen on several occasions at TRC, Refugio Amazonas and other lodges managed by Rainforest Expeditions.

Some interesting facts about the Short-eared Dog:

  • The only member of the Atelocynus genus: The Short-eared Dog is the sole member of its genus. Although it doesn’t appear to have any close relatives, it is believed to be somewhat related to fox species that occur in South America.
  • Naturally rare: This rainforest canine occurs at naturally low densities in part because it has to compete with such other predators as the Ocelot, Puma, Jaguar, and Bush Dog. 
  • Partially webbed toes: The toes of the Short-eared Dog are partially webbed and an adaptation for aquatic habitats and indeed, this canine seems to prefer wetlands in the forest.

How to see a Short-eared Dog on a tour in the Peruvian jungle:

  • Visit areas where they have been seen most often: The Short-eared Dog is a very difficult species to see but one has a better chance of watching this canine in places that appear to host healthy populations. Tambopata, Peru is one such area.
  • Hike on rainforest trails near streams and other wetlands: Since this species seems to prefer wetland habitats (and fish have been recoded as being a primary prey item), spending more time near rainforest streams and swamps may increase chances of seeing it.
  • Explore the rainforest with an experienced guide: Hiking in the rainforest with a knowledgeable guide is just about essential for encountering rare animals like the Short-eared Dog.
Keep an eye out for the Short-eared Dog and other rare rainforest animals while experiencing the Peruvian Amazon jungle with Rainforest Expeditions.
 
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