|Wild Dog Resources
North American Canidae
Types of Wolves
Types of Animals
Depending on the cultural and historical context, dogs either rule as man's best friend, or they get classified as both pests and menu items.
The animals known around the world as Canis lupus familiaris are the domesticated versions, bred over the course of thousands of years to either help humans in a work task or to keep them company.
Wild dogs, the undomesticated canidae species, call all the continents of the world (except Antarctica) home.
While improvements in Canidae research and DNA analysis continue, keeping the issue of Canidae taxonomy unsettled, currently the Canid Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recognize thirteen Canidae genera, divided into thirty six species.
- Alopex lagopus Arctic fox
- Atelocynus (short-eared dog)
- Canis (dogs, jackals, and wolves)
- Cerdocyon (crab-eating fox)
- Chrysocyon (maned wolf)
- Cuon (dhole)
- Lycaon (African wild dog)
- Nyctereutes (raccoon dog)
- Otocyon (bat-eared fox)
- Pseudalopex (South American foxes)
- Speothos (bush dog)
- Urocyon (gray foxes)
- Vulpes (foxes)
North America hosts species in four of those genera, Alopex, Canis, Urocyon and Vulpes.
Unlike other animal species that traditionally divide between Old World and New World classifications, South American and North American Canidae species differ more than some North American and Old World species.
The fox and wolf species in the Canis and Vulupes genera for example, consists of North American, European, Asian and African species. Whereas, the wild dogs, wolves and foxes of South American evolved as species within distinct genera.
The gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) in the top picture, and its close relative the Island Grey Fox (Urocyon littoralis) are native New World species with vastly different ranges.
Whereas the gray fox had the opportunity to extend its range throughout most of forested areas of North, Central and the northern areas of South America, the Island Grey Fox got caught up in a geological evolution which limited its range to the Channel Islands off the California coast once the ice bridge between the mainland and islands melted away.
The gray fox is well adapted to forest life. It is the only canid capable of climbing trees, which it does to gather fruit or escape from predators. They are omnivores, with a diet that consists of local rodent and mammal populations, along with insects, nuts and the aforementioned fruit.
Their wide range and adaptability have helped keep overall populations healthy.
The white fur and name of the Arctic Fox easily explain its northern habitat, which extends through most of the circumpolar north.
During the winter, the fur turns white, enabling the fox to camouflage itself from predators and prey alike.
During the summer, the fur turns a brown color, providing similar camouflage against the rocks of the tundra.
They stay active during the winter, and their warm coat of fur is complimented by a coat of fur on the pads of their feet to help them cope with the snow and ice on the ground.
Arctic Foxes exhibit both predatory and scavenger feeding behavior. They prey on lemmings, sea birds, eggs and marine invertebrates in their territory. They also play a cat and mouse game with local polar bear populations, hiding from them to avoid being prey, and then scavenging on the remains of polar bear prey such as seals.
© 2010-2012. Patricia A. Michaels