Elusive bush dog caught on camera, and it doesn't look like a dog

January 22, 2016, 8:22 a.m.
A pack of bush dogs is tiny but mighty.
Photo: Vladimir Wrangel/Shutterstock

It looks almost more like the love child of a Tasmanian Devil and a foosa, but this unusual species is a rarely seen species of canid, Speothos venaticus — better known as the bush dog. The species has always been rare in its range, however, new camera trap evidence suggests that the dogs might be a little more common than scientists had figured.

Smithsonian Science News reports, "New data from photos taken by automated camera traps in remote areas in Panama, along with other sightings, show the species to be widespread in the country. The new study, co-authored by Smithsonian Research Associate Ricardo Moreno, will assist conservation planning for this near-threatened species." (By the way, the photo featured here is not one of the camera trap images; you can view those in the Smithsonian article.)

They may be small dogs but they are fierce, working in packs to take down prey quite a bit larger than themselves. Standing only about a foot high at the shoulders, the wild dogs use their stubby stature to run through the underbrush of the jungles of Central and South America in search of prey, which typically includes large forest-dwelling rodents. Perhaps anyone with a terrier can relate to the kind of attitude these dogs muster.

Though they are tough, they are also elusive, and scientists have had a hard time capturing them on camera. Smithsonian reports, "To give some idea of the difficulty of studying the species, photos were obtained on only 11 occasions out of more than almost 32,000 camera-days (the number of cameras multiplied by the number of days they were in operation)."

But just so you can see what the species is like in action, here is video footage of captive bush dogs:

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.