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What is the Falkland Islands Wolf?

Michael Anissimov
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The Falkland Islands Wolf was a beautiful species of wild canid found only on the Falkland Islands, an archipelago located 300 mi (480 km) off the coast of Argentina, near the bottom tip of South America, Tierra del Fuego. The Falkland Islands Wolf is technically considered a wolf, although it had a mix of wolf and fox-like characteristics and has been called a "wolf-like fox" as well. Its common name was the "Warrah."

The Falkland Islands Wolf went extinct in 1876 due to extermination by humans, who considered it a threat to livestock and also killed it for sport. The Falkland Islands Wolf is the only canid known to have gone extinct in historic times. It had a warm, thick coat with a tawny color and a tail with a black band and white tip on the end. The Falkland Islands Wolf was the only endemic mammal on the islands. Its diet is not known for certain, but it probably fed on seabirds.

The Falkland Islands Wolf was first discovered in 1692 by Captain John Strong, an English privateer, when he made one of the first known landings on the islands. The animals were highly curious and unafraid of humans, never having encountered them before, and facing little natural threats on this remote island. They were so docile that it was possible to kill the animals simply by holding a piece of meat in one hand and stabbing them with a knife in the other. The Falkland Islands Wolf was so reckless around humans that it had a habit of sneaking into men's tents and stealing meat right from under their noses.

The Falkland Islands Wolf is a biogeographical mystery. How did such a large mammal get to uninhabited islands 300 miles off the coast of South America? Endemic mammals on islands this isolated are rare -- most endemic insular mammals are found on islands no more than 30 mi from the coast, and even then, there are only two other confirmed instances -- the Island Fox of California and Darwin's Fox in Chile.

There are various theories about how the Falkland Island Wolf got there. Genetic tests on preserved remains indicate that it is most closely related to the Culpeo, or Patagonian Fox, but it was different enough to be given its own genus, Dusicyon. The Falkland Islands Wolf may have been a descendant of culpeos brought to the island by Patagonian natives long ago, or it may have traversed a land bridge from South America to the Falklands, which is thought to have existed during various glacial periods over the last two million years.

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Michael Anissimov
By Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated All Things Nature contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism to his articles. An avid blogger, Michael is deeply passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. His professional experience includes work with the Methuselah Foundation, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and Lifeboat Foundation, further showcasing his commitment to scientific advancement.
Discussion Comments
By Drentel — On Aug 08, 2014

Since the Falkland Island wolf is no longer around, I'm sure there are scientists out there somewhere who would be happy to go get wolves from Canada and then transport them across the water to give a boost to Falkland Island tourism, and let the locals deal with the wolves eating their livestock and being a general danger. After all, isn't that what they did in Yellowstone National Park in the U.S.?

By Sporkasia — On Aug 08, 2014

The article talks about how no one knows exactly how the wolf reached the Falkland Islands. This is just another example of the ability of animals to adapt and survive, regardless of how they reached the Islands.

This reminds me of the American coyote, a distance cousin of the Falklands wolf I guess. The coyote has been able to inhabit and thrive in virtually every location in the United States. There is even a large population on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and how the coyotes got there is also a bit of a mystery.

By Feryll — On Aug 07, 2014

I have read a lot about the Falkland Islands and I have seen a few pictures of the Falkland Islands wolf, but I have always seen the animal referred to as the Falkland Islands fox, and in some cases the animal is called a dog. Whatever you call it, the animal was not like the Yellowstone wolf and other larger wolfs that we see today.

The article talks about how the Falkland Islands wolf would take meat from humans. The wolf was the only predator on the Islands for a long time, so it had little to no fear. This is one reason the animal was easy hunting for men in the beginning.

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated All Things Nature contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics,...
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