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Canids

Ever heard of a maned wolf? How about a chilla or a crab-eating fox?

These are three members of the wild dog family — or Canidae — that live in South America. All together there are 37 members of the Canidae family spread across the world. You may know some of the more local ones like the gray wolf, red fox and coyote. A canid is a member of the Canidae family.

Other canids found around the world include dingos, dholes and jackals.

According to the book “Canids of the World,” there are canids on every continent except Antarctica. These wild animals live in deserts and rain forests, high mountains and even towns and cities.

One reason canids can live in so many places is that they will eat a variety of foods, from small mammals like mice, to insects and plants. Coyotes that live in cities and towns even raid garbage cans. Such a variety of food sources have resulted in smaller canids being called “opportunistic ominvores.”

Larger canids — like wolves, dholes and African wild dogs — tend to eat more meat. They also often hunt in groups to help kill animals larger than themselves. Packs of wolves are known to hunt elk, deer and even much larger bison.

Thanks to humans, there are more than 400 recognized breeds of domestic dogs — the most familiar members of the Canidae family. Scientists think humans may have tamed wild wolves to be their pets about 15,000 to 30,000 years ago.

Wild canids range in size from the large gray wolf — which can weigh up to 175 pounds and measure 5-feet long — down to the tiny Fennec fox — which measures less than a foot long and weighs less than 2 pounds.

If you want to know more about canids, check out “Canids of the World." Copies of the book from Princeton Field Guides are priced at $29.95.

— Brett French, french@billingsgazette.com

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