Bush Dog (Speothos venaticus) Classification:Class: Mammalia, Order: Carnivora, Family: Canidae, Genus: Speothos, Species: venaticus
IUCN Status: Vulnerable
Due to the Bush Dog’s elusive nature, most of what is known about this species comes from observations of these animals in captivity or from anecdotal sources (http://www.iucnredlist.org/search/details.php?species=20468). Bush Dogs have squat bodies, short legs, short bushy tails, round ears, and muzzles. They also have webbed feet, which is an adaptation for living near water. Their heads and necks are reddish. The rest of their bodies are brown and become darker towards the tail.
This rare species has a range that extends from Panama all the way down to northern Argentina. Its habitat includes lowland forests, semi-deciduous forests, seasonally flooded forests, and wet savannahs. This species is an impressive generalist (it can survive in many different habitats) but has never been seen far from water.
Bush Dogs live in extended family groups of up to 12 members. These groups have elaborate systems of contact calls for communication. They are active during the day and retire to their dens at night (dens are often abandoned armadillo nests). Bush Dogs hunt large rodents such as paca and agouti in groups, although solitary hunters sometimes eat smaller rodents, snakes, lizards, and ground nesting birds. Sometimes, larger groups take on prey like the capybara which is much larger than each individual dog.
In Bush Dog extended family groups, only one female reproduces. The estrous cycle (the cycle governing the release of eggs in female mammals) is suppressed in the other females. Females are pregnant for up to 67 days and have litters averaging 4 pups. Non-breeding females assist in the care of the pups and males bring food to the den. The young reach sexual maturity in one year. Members of this species are believed to live about 10 years. (http://www.arkive.org/species/GES/mammals/Speothos_venaticus/more_info.html)
It is illegal to hunt this rare species in most South and Central American countries. Bush Dogs are known to live in Yasuní. It is believed that habitat encroachment is the leading cause of this species’ decline.
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