Sunday 24 January 2016

Trail camera captures super rare image of elusive bush dog

JANUARY 20, 2016

by Brett Smith

The bush dog is one of the most elusive canid species in the world, rarely seen across its range of Central and South America. Yet, a new collection of photos taken by robotic camera traps reveal the species to be prevalent in Panama.

The photos and a report on the status of the bush dog in Panama were published in the Canid Biology & Conservation journal.

Bush dogs are short-legged and stand only around a foot tall at the shoulder. They live primarily in tropical forests, but have been documented in disparate and modified habitats. Hunting in groups of up to 10 animals, bush dogs make high-pitched whines to reach out to each other and yap like puppies when they run after their prey. They mostly eat large forest rodents, but at one location in Brazil, they primarily ate armadillos. Ferocious for their size, a pack of six was documented chasing a tapir, an animal nearly 20 times a bush dog's weight.

Even though the dogs are active by day, bush dogs are amazingly difficult to see and are hardly ever reported even where they are known to inhabit. Camera traps, which capture pictures automatically when their infrared sensors identify an animal's body heat, were arranged as part of research for other mammals, and the cameras luckily snapped photos of bush dogs at four locations, between Cerro Pirre near the Colombian border to Santa Fe National Park in the western part of the country. Notably, photos were acquired on only 11 occasions out of over nearly 32,000 camera-days (the quantity of cameras times the amount of days in operation).

Panama is the only country in Central America where the species is recognized as inhabiting, apart from a few unconfirmed sightings in easternmost Costa Rica close to the Panamanian border.

"We think that it will soon cross the border into Costa Rica," study author Ricardo Moreno, a Smithsonian research associate, said in a statement.

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