Painted wolves: 5 facts you may not know

The name ‘painted wolf’ is a direct translation from its Latin name and refers to the blotchy colouring of their hair. Colouring and patterns are unique to every animal, and there are geographic variations in colouring and patterns as well.

Painted wolves have been on the endangered species list since 1990 and are currently the second-most endangered carnivore in Africa after the Ethiopian wolf. According to the IUCN Redlist there are only 1,490 mature individuals left (the total population is approximately 6,500). In South Africa the two largest populations are in the Kruger National Park, which has a population varying between 200 to 400, and the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.

Direct contact with human activity is responsible for over 50% of recorded adult mortality and, for packs living on the borders of national parks, mortality may be as high as 92% because of interaction with humans. Loss of suitable habitat due to encroaching humans is also causing declining numbers. A new strain of canine distemper with a mortality rate of 38% is also ravaging population numbers.

Only the dominant pair in the pack breed, which also contributes to low population numbers. Painted wolves are different to other animals in that the females leave the pack when they reach sexual maturity, not the males. Once puppies are weaned, they are looked after by the collective group.

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Painted wolves live and hunt in packs, and they chase prey until it is too tired to run. This is one of the reasons why they prefer open bushland or savannah rather than thick bush – they can see and track prey more easily. The bigger the pack, the more successful they are. The food is consumed quickly, and food is regurgitated back at the den for the puppies to eat.

These facts don’t even begin to explain their complex hierarchy and social structures. Still interested? Contact us if you’d like to see these beautiful animals in the wild. We know just where to find them