Right at the entrance to the Itatiaia National Park, located in Itamonte, Minas Gerais, 270 km from São Paulo, a paper attached to the cork mural lists the name and telephone number of the “victims ” of the maned wolves that inhabit the place.
The animals have acquired the habit of snapping up and carrying any belonging of visitors that they see ahead into the forest: an attack backpack, a car key Mitsubishi and a wallet with documents and cards, for example.
A circle in blue pen around the list and the word “ok” is a sign that those objects have already been retrieved by park guides , who manage to send them back to their owners.
The maned wolves circulate in the upper part, where you can visit the main attraction of the place, the Agulhas Negras peak. This region of the park is accessed by a kilometer long dirt road in poor condition. Due to the bad conditions, it takes almost an hour to drive by car.
Visitors say that attacks usually occur at night —the species is known for its nocturnal habits—, when tourists return to their homes. tents at the campsite and begin to prepare dinner.
The victims are unanimous in stating that the maned wolf is docile and runs away in the face of more abrupt movements, often a reaction to the fright of encountering in the dark with the animal almost one meter tall and weighing about 30 kilos.
The guide Jonatas Rocha, 34, estimates there are from six to seven animals that frequent the camping area. “They haven’t been ready for a week”, he says.
He says that he witnessed the desperate search of a tourist who left his backpack at the entrance to the bathroom and, when he returned, his belongings were gone. “I said the wolf caught it, but he got even more nervous and didn’t believe it, he thought I was joking,” he recalls. In addition to belongings, the backpack had food for the visitor to spend the night.
The search for the stolen backpack mobilized the campers until one of them aimed his flashlight in the middle of the open field and caught two eyes in the middle of darkness. “We caught him in the act, with his head stuck inside his backpack”, says the guide.
Attendant Carol Campos, 22, remembers that she had to rely on the solidarity of other visitors after a maned wolf stole the bag containing all the food she and her friends had taken to spend a few days camped in the park. “We tied the bag on top of the living area, but he took it anyway.”
To avoid inconvenience, park employees ask visitors not to leave food and other belongings inside the tents. rare times the animal tears the canvas to satiate curiosity, or even hunger.
There are also reports of a tourist who had the drone dragged into the forest by the maned wolf, and another who lost a bottle of whiskey even though alcoholic beverages are prohibited in the conservation area. For this reason, the more assiduous visitors got used to leaving backpacks and groceries inside the cars.
Native to the cerrado, the maned wolf is one of the species that had its population growth affected by the advance of the areas urban areas in preserved regions. Another risk factor is the dispersal of animals along roads and highways that cut through their habitat.
According to the ICMBio (Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation), roadkill is responsible for the death of a third of the puppies per year.
Most objects carried by wolves are left in the forest and end up being found by guides or groups that walk along the trails, but not always in good condition. The stolen drone, for example, was recovered in pieces, as well as the packaging of what would be a camper’s dinner are found.
To avoid night attacks, the park’s concession project included the installation of iron boxes in the camping area so that visitors can safely leave their belongings. The improvement, however, is not yet available, as well as most of the planned actions.
The manager of the Itatiaia National Park, Luiz Gonzaga Barbosa Aragão, demonstrates concern with the proximity of the wild animal to the human interaction, which can bring diseases to the species.
Therefore, it is recommended not to interact if you encounter the wolf. “We, who are in their house, must respect”, concludes Aragão.