If you’ve ever been on the road to a village on the Greek countryside at night, chances are you’ve seen some small furry critters along the way. Sadly, many may be roadkill, but others are lucky enough to make it to their next destination. One of these larger in size wild beasts is the Golden Jackal, known by its scientific name as Canis aureus.
This sleek, long-legged, big pointy-eared creature with an estimated population of less than 1,500 in Greece, was until 1990 classified as a harmful species, according to the Arcturos Environmental Center. That’s why it was hunted in large numbers from 1974 to 1980 when some 7,000 of them were killed.
An opportunistic hunter that prefers snatching a meal digging through human garbage, the Golden Jackal with its actute senses of hearing and smell also hunts small pray including fish, snails, rodents, birds, insects, and more. Like the vulture, it acts as nature’s cleaning agent…feasting on dead animals. This may be why it was associated with the jackal-headed ancient Egyptian god of mummification and the afterlife – Anubis. But the jackal is an omnivore that also eats fruits and plants.
In Greece, the Golden Jackal congregates in small groups on the coast of Fokida, the Peloponnese, Samos, in eastern Macedonia and Thrace, Halkidiki, as well as a few other areas. Outside Greece, the Golden Jackal can be found in the Balkans, Asia, and Africa.
Greece’s Golden Jackal, like other wild mammals around the world, is threatened by human activity including hunting and habitat destruction from fires. If you’re not lucky enough to see one of these wild animals in real life, perhaps you may recognize one of their trademark howls, cackles, and whines they use to communicate with each other well into the night.