Researchers in Panama were stunned when their nature camera caught two extremely rare bush dogs traversing the jungle.
It’s so rare, biologists weren’t even sure if it still existed. According to a report from Discovery News, researchers in Panama have caught the elusive bush dog, a foot-tall jungle canid that hunts in packs.
Known to scientists as Speothos venaticus, the bush dog exists on a diet of rodents and small mammals like armadillos. It has successfully evaded being filmed until now, when a hidden camera caught a pair walking along the forest floor.
Researchers believe the bush dog can be found in South and Central America, but the exact boundaries of its range are hard to define. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the bush dog’s range can extend from eastern Central America and the northern part of South America all the way to Paraguay and the northeastern section of Argentina.
The IUCN also reports that the bush dog is “naturally rare,” and is extremely difficult to locate in the wild. This has made it hard for researchers to get an accurate population count – the animal is so rare that scientists don’t even know how to implement proper conservation methods to protect it. Despite the lack of available data, the IUCN has classified the bush dog as “near threatened,” and the animal is on the organization’s red list.
Researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute set up automated cameras to carry out a broad study on large mammals in the Panamanian forest, including Jaguars, when they noticed the rare bush dog.
According to the researchers, bush dogs showed up on their camera traps on 11 days out of 32,000 camera days, a measure calculated by multiplying the number of cameras being used by the number of days they were set up.
The finding at the very least confirms the northern edge of the bush dog’s range, but researchers are curious as to whether or not the animal extends even further north into Central America.
The study, published in the journal Canid Biology & Conservation, can be found here.