Finding the South American Bushdog

22 September 2017

During a mammal monitoring excursion to the aguajal (flooded palm tree swamp) we accidentally encountered a group of South American Bush Dogs! With short tails and bear-like face, this group of 5 individuals were surrounding a pond of water, where they appeared to be waiting for something. Unfortunately, these dogs discovered our presence after five minutes despite our attempts to hide among the vegetation, and ventured away from the pond and into the deeper inaccessible (to us) areas of the swamp. While we were recording their peculiar behavior on our monitoring sheet, we noticed something surfacing from the pool of water the bush dogs had surrounded. After various attempts to get a good glimpse of this surfacing creature, we finally saw what this mysterious animal was…..a capybara! But what was it doing there? We jotted down some observations regarding the capybara and began to head back to camp.

 

 

Pictures taken with volunteer GoPro (Thank you Evan Woody!) and may not have high resolution, but provide enough distinguishing features of the bush dog

 

Excited, yet confused, we decided to do some research on the South American Bush Dog. We found that these rare canines are semi-aquatic and have adapted to a life near water. Evidence of this includes their elongate, mustelid-like (mustelids being weasels, otter, or mongooses) bodies and webbing between their toes. Can you guess what part of their diet includes? If you guessed medium to large sized rodents such as capybara, would be correct! We can hypothesize that these bush dogs were stalking the capybara in the water, just waiting to make their move. Did we save a capybara’s life? Or did we prevent the bush dogs was snatching up a delicious meal? You decide...


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