February 10, 2009
The hunt provided new information not only about the diet—and audacity—of the culpeo fox, but also showed never-before-seen behavior from the guanaco. When attacked by the culpeo fox, researchers were surprised to see the guanacos move into defensive herds and not shy away from kicking and charging at the fox. Before this, guanacos were thought to have only one strategy against predation—flight. Whenever a guanaco is attacked by a puma, its other known predator, it flees rather than defends itself.
The culpeo fox chasing a guanaco. Photo by: Cristobal Briceño of WCS Chile.
As opportunistic predators, culpeo fox have been known to prey on lizards, rabbits, birds, rodents, and even sheep. But successfully hunting young guanaco—and surviving attacks from adults—awards this small wild canine new stature.
The observations were made on the island of Tierra del Fuego off the southern tip of South America. Perhaps significantly the island is free of pumas.
CITATION: Andres J. Novaro, Claudio A. Moraga, Cristobal Bricen, Martin C. Funes, Andrea Marino(2009) First records of culpeo (Lycalopex culpaeus) attacks and cooperative defense by guanacos (Lama guanicoe). Mammalia, Volume 73.