An endangered wolf pup is the newest addition to Salina’s Rolling Hills Zoo. According to the zoo, a female maned wolf pup was born on December 30th. This pup is the first successful offspring of 8-year old male, Zachary, a 7-year resident of RHZ, and 9-year old female, Vitani.
Born at the Alexandria Zoological Park in Louisiana, Vitani arrived at Rolling Hills Zoo from the Dickerson Park Zoo in 2019 on a breeding recommendation from the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoo and Aquariums. This was Vitani’s second litter. Her first was at the Smithsonian Conservation Institute where she gave birth to two pups in 2013.
While a maned wolf pregnancy lasts about 65 days, giving birth to a litter of 2-6 puppies, in this litter the female pup was the only one surviving of a litter of four. Born with black fur, it will take about a year for the pup to be fully grown at which time she will sport a thick red coat long black legs and tall, erect ears.
During the pup’s first official exam by veterinary staff on February 13, she weighed 4.5 lbs., and also received her first vaccination. This pup is bold, curious, very playful and quite vocal. She likes to play with her shadow in the back of the den box and has started eating some solids foods. She enjoys pushing her food dishes around and plays in water bowls. She is curious about the keepers and very watchful, but takes mom’s cues like a proper pup should. Currently she has access to the pad and is staying close to mom. RHZ guests might start seeing her traveling in the yard following mom from den to den. There are several dens that Vitani can choose to go in, both inside and outside, and she will move inside with her pup when the weather is cold.
“Vitani has been an amazing mom,” shared zoo curator Brenda Gunder. “Very nurturing and watchful, while allowing the pup some independence.” Both parents share the responsibility of caring for pup, including bringing food to the pup by regurgitating earlier meals, and Zachary has been at the girls’ beck and call.
The maned wolf is the largest canid of South America. Its markings resemble those of foxes, but it is neither a fox nor a wolf. Living in high grass savannas, maned wolves range through central and eastern South America including northern Argentina, South and Central Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia and southern Peru.
Reminiscent of a skunk’s smell, maned wolf urine has a powerful aroma that lets one know when you are in their territory. They are omnivorous eaters and primarily solitary hunters, eating small mammals such as rodents, rabbits and insects. They also eat seasonally abundant fruits and vegetables, which make up 50 percent of their diet.
Maned wolves are listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, the Brazilian Red List and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species List have maned wolves listed as endangered. The total population is believed to be below 5,000 outside of Brazil.