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‘Elusive’ Bush Dog Caught on Camera

Bush dogs are seen in this camera trap photo taken in the wet tropical forests of Pirre, Darién Province, Panama, March 20, 2015. (Ricardo Moreno)

Biologists say they have captured photos of one of the most elusive dogs in the world.

The photos of the bush dogs, which live in Central and South America, may also prove the rarely seen and threatened species is somewhat more common than previously thought.

The photos were taken using automated camera traps - using infrared sensors - in remote areas of Panama by Ricardo Moreno, a research associate for the Smithsonian Institution.

"Our group of biologists from Yaguará Panama and collaborators are working on an article about big mammals using camera trapping data that spans Panama from the Costa Rican border to the Colombian border," said Moreno. "The bush dog is one of the rarest species that we photograph."

Bush dogs, or Speothos venaticus, are “short-legged and stubby, standing only about a foot (30cm) tall at the shoulder,” researchers said.

Like other dogs, bush dogs hunt in packs of up to 10 and are known to “speak” to each other using “high-pitched whines.” They eat mostly large forest rodents.

To get an idea about how elusive the bush dog can be, photos of the dog were obtained only 11 times over the course of 32,000 camera days, the number of cameras times the days in operation.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, bush dog populations have dropped by up to 25 percent over the past 12 years, meaning it is classified as a “near-threatened” species.

While they are not directly hunted and killed by humans, habitat loss is having an impact. The dogs are believed to range over areas up to 700 square kilometers.

It is estimated that Panama lost 15 percent of its rainforest from 1990 to 2010.

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