Range and Habitat
The small eared zorro ranges in northern South America, in the Amazon rainforest basin in Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. They are most prevalent in areas of rainforest with little human disturbance. They seem to be most common in areas where there are freshwater streams and rivers. They are rare to nonexistant in or around human settlements and villages.
The small-eared zorro is a medium-sized canid. They have a thick, stocky body set on relatively short narrow legs. Their muzzle is very long and thin, with short, rounded ears set to the sides of the head. They range from dark reddish-grey to black on their backs, blending to a rufous color underneath. Their undersides have pale-colored parts. Their bushy tail has very thick, black hair. They have 42 teeth, with the dental formula: i=6/6, c=2/2, p=8/8, m=4/6 (total top jaw/total bottom jaw). Their paws are partially webbed, suggesting that they may be somewhat aquatic.
The small eared zorro seems to be mostly carnivorous in its feeding habits. By examining the scats of this species at Cocha Cashu, an accurate dietary habit was established, with the following percentages: fish 28%, insects 17%, small mammals 13%, various fruits 10%, crabs 10%, birds 10%, frogs 4%, and reptiles 3%.
Social Behavior and Reproduction
Very little is recorded on this canid species. They can be either nocturnal or diurnal, and natives report that they are solitary. For the most part, they seem to be docile and non-aggressive towards humans. Males seem to have a musky odor that females do not. From a study of den sites, three dens were found with two puppies each, suggesting a small litter size. Birthing times seem to correlate with the dry season.
The most urgent threat to this fox is habitat loss, since they only thrive in areas undisturbed by humans. Jaguars, ocelots and cougars are all potential predators of this much smaller fox, although this is not proven. Most likely, all medium-sized carnivores with similar diets are competition. There are very few reports of this species being persecuted by man. They have been hunted and eaten by the local Yora peoples of Peru. They are also sometimes killed for eating chikens. There are no reports of them being hunted for their fur, although a few are captured as pets or sold to zoos. Canine distemper and canine parvovirus are widespread among domestic dogs in South America, providing another threat to wild canids.
For the most part, this dog is very secretive and holds very little value to either the indiginous peoples or poachers, making this a species that is poorly researched. There is no conservatory measures being taken for this species. It is believed to be rare, but may actually be much more common than previously thought. They are protected by law in Brazil and Peru, and occurs on the Brazilian and Columbian lists of Endangered Species. They are not listed by CITES, and listed as Data Deficient by the IUCN.
Their scientific name means “small-eared imperfect dog” (“Atelo” = imperfect, “cynus” = dog in Greek; “micro” = small and “otis” = ear in Latin).
Like the other species of South American wild dogs, this species used to be classified in the genus Dusicyon.