The Ethiopian Wolf (Canis simensis) is tied with the red wolf (see ANIMAL POST Canus Rufus 11/23/12) as the rarest member of the family Canidae, which includes the dogs, foxes, jackals and wolves.
Also known as the Simien fox or jackal, Ethiopian jackal, red jackal or fox, and Abyssinian Wolf, some 500 survive today in small populations, threatened by loss of highland habitats, disease and persecution.
Unlike most canids, the Ethiopian wolf lives in open country, confined to seven isolated mountain ranges of the Ethiopian highlands above the tree line at about 3000 m (10,000′) where rodents are found in abundance.
The Bale Mountains in southeastern Ethiopia–often called “the roof of Africa”–where the largest population of the Ethiopian wolves live, contain the largest contiguous area above 3000 m on the African continent.
A large part of this wolf’s diet is made up of giant mole rats. Wolves look for underground homes conspicuously advertised with an opening on top. They pounce on the opening, press their ear to the ground, and dig and dig until they are rewarded with a 1.5-pound rodent.
These elegant, long-legged wolves resemble the North American coyote in both shape and size. They have a long muzzle, a distinctive reddish coat with a white throat, chest, and underparts, broad pointed ears, and a thick bushy black tail with a white base. They range in size from 43 to 55 inches (tip of nose to end of tail) and weigh from 24 to 42 pounds.
The only predators that pose a danger to them other than humans are spotted hyenas and tawny eagles that occasionally prey on unattended pups. Life span in the wild is about 8 to 10 years.
Conservation Status: IUCN Red List: Endangered–officially protected in Ethiopia.