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Family Canidae

Canines or canids (dogs, wolves, coyotes, jackals and foxes) belong to the order Carnivora, which consists of the land-dwelling, meat-eating mammals. They are mainly carnivorous, eating all types of meat as well as insects, mollusks and crustaceans. Some, notably jackals, will eat carrion and some, especially jackals and foxes, consume a good deal of vegetable matter. All are doglike in general appearance, with lithe, muscular, deep chested bodies and long, slender legs. The tail is typically bushy, the ears usually large and erect, the muzzle long and slender. Canids are digitigrade, meaning they travel on their toes. Most canids have five toes on the front feet (including a vestigial dewclaw) and four on the hind feet, with straight, blunt, nonretractile claws. (The domestic dog has vestigial dew claws on all four feet, while the African hunting dog has no dewclaws.) All canids (except the bat-eared fox of Africa, the bush dog of South America and the dhole of Asia) have a total of 42 teeth. The canines are long and powerful and the carnassials (last upper premolar and first lower molar) are well-developed for shearing meat. Males have a well-developed penis bone or baculum. All canids have a scent gland at the base of the tail on top.

Canids are intelligent, cunning and alert. They are opportunistic and adaptable, with a flexible social organization. Some capture prey by open chase, others by stalking and pouncing. Some hunt alone, others in packs. Those hunting in packs frequently migrate along with their principal prey. Canids have amazing endurance but are not capable of short bursts of extreme speed. They rely mostly on hearing and smell, less so on sight; however, all senses are acute. Most species have a distinctive howl or bark. Oddly, the two species of gray fox often climb trees.

There are about 36 species of canids, varying in size from the large gray wolf to the small fennec fox. Canids probably originated in North America during the Eocene Epoch some 38 million to 54 million years ago. They occur naturally throughout the world except the West Indies, Madagascar, Taiwan, the Philippines, Borneo and some other East Indian islands, New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, and most oceanic islands. Additionally, the domestic dog has been introduced virtually everywhere and has become feral in many parts of the world. Nine species of wild canids occur in North America, of which one is the endangered red wolf (Canis rufus) and seven are smaller varieties, including the coyote (C. latrans), red fox (Vulpes Vulpes), swift fox (V. velox), kit fox (V. macrotis), gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), island gray fox (U. littoralis), and arctic fox (Alopex lagopus). Six of these are open to hunting.

See the listings below and follow the links for more information on each subspecies or variety and for information on hunting techniques and what you should expect when pursuing this quarry.

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