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What Is an Ethiopian Wolf?

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  • Written By: A. Delgado
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2016
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An Ethiopian wolf, or Canis simensis, is a medium-sized canid with a reddish-colored coat and a thin, fox-like face. Other names for this species include Abyssinian wolf and Simien fox or jackal. They live in the mountains of Ethiopia, preying on rodents and other small animals in the grassland regions. Ethiopian wolves live in packs but tend to hunt individually. They are an endangered species mainly due to severe habitat loss.

Ethiopian wolves are much smaller than their cousins, the gray wolves. Adults measure between 33 and 39 inches long (84 cm to 1 m) and weigh between 24 and 42 pounds (11 to 19 kg). Males have a distinctive coat of mainly red fur with smaller areas of white fur on the face, throat, tail, legs and belly, while females typically have lighter coats. The Ethiopian wolf has a slender build with long, thin legs and a pointed muzzle.

The mountains of Ethiopia are the natural range for Ethiopian wolves. They live in isolated areas of open terrain, such as shrublands and grasslands, that are roughly 1.8 to 2.8 miles (3,000 to 4,500 meters) above sea level. These areas provide the wolves with abundant prey. They generally dig through small holes and tunnels in the ground to get to rodents, which serve as their main source of food. The rest of the Ethiopian wolf's diet consists of bird eggs, young birds, carcasses and young antelopes.

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Packs typically contain up to 13 Ethiopian wolves, although the average pack size is six. The wolves gather together a few times each day to play, socialize and protect their territory. They often hunt alone, unless they are chasing after bigger prey such as young reedbucks or lambs. Each pack contains a dominant female who gives birth to two to six pups each year. The rest of the pack helps feed and care for the pups until they are about one year old.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has placed the Ethiopian wolf on the endangered species list. Wolf populations are estimated to range from 360 to 440 adults. The greatest threat to the species is habitat loss, resulting from increasing agricultural development. Other threats include diseases such as distemper, conflicts with farmers over livestock and being struck by cars. The wolves are protected under the country's Wildlife Conservation Regulations of 1974, which makes it a crime to kill a wolf.

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