The threatened Red Wolf

The red wolf (Canis rufus) is just one of two varieties of wolves in phibìc America, the other being the gray wolf (Canis lupus). Together their surname suggests, red wolf are recognized for the properties reddish color of their fur most noticeable behind the ears and also along the neck and legs, yet are largely brown and buff colored with some black along your backs. Intermediary in size to gray wolves and also coyotes, the average adult red wolf weighs 45-80 pounds, stands about 26 inches at the shoulder and also is about 4 feet long from the reminder of the nose to the end of the tail.

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Red wolves are social animals that live in package consisting of a reproduction adult pair and their offspring of different years, commonly five come eight animals. Red wolves prey on a range of wild mammals such as raccoon, rabbit, white-tailed deer, nutria, and also other rodents. Most energetic at dusk and dawn, red wolves room elusive and generally avoid humans and human activity.

Red wolf are safeguarded as an endangered varieties under the Endangered types Act and also are classified as "critically endangered" on the global Union because that Conservation the Nature"s (IUCN) Red List. Together of July 2021, over there are at this time 9 known to continue to be in the wild in phibìc Carolina.

History of the Red Wolf

The red wolf is among the world’s most endangered wild canids. Once common throughout the southeastern joined States, red wolf populaces were decimated by the 1960s because of intensive predator regulate programs and also loss of habitat. A remnant population of red wolves was found along the Gulf coastline of Texas and Louisiana. After being claimed an endangered species in 1973, efforts were initiated to locate and also capture as plenty of wild red wolves together possible. Of the 17 staying wolves caught by biologists, 14 ended up being the founders of a successful captive reproduction program. Consequently, the United says Fish and also Wildlife organization (USFWS) claimed red wolf extinct in the wild in 1980.


It was the belief that the red wolf led to widespread livestock losses that led to comprehensive predator control programs in the early part of the 20th Century. Fear and a misunderstanding of the animal led come indiscriminate killing because that bounties. The red wolf was also impacted by soil clearing and drainage projects, logging, mineral exploration, and road advancement that encroached on its woodland habitat.

As predator control programs were lugged out v a vengeance, the red wolf was totally removed from extensive areas of its previous range, when in other locations its social structure was ruined by removed of load members. At the same time, deforestation in east Texas and Oklahoma resulted in an eastward surging of the coyote. These factors resulted in red wolf and coyote interbreeding when red wolves were unable to find mates of their own species.


In 1967, the red wolf was noted as an endangered varieties (under a law that came before the Endangered varieties Act of 1973), definition it is taken into consideration in risk of die out throughout all or a far-ranging portion that its range.

The U.S. Fish and also Wildlife business established a captive-breeding program for the red wolf in 1973. Biologists began to remove continuing to be red wolf from the wild in an effort to save the species from extinction. These animals were taken to the suggest Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington. Over a period of 6 years, an ext than 400 wolf-like canids were caught in Louisiana and also Texas, yet of this number, just 43 were considered red wolves and were put in captivity. Further, reproduction experiments revealed that only 17 of the 43 to be true red wolves, and also only 14 of these efficiently bred in captivity. By 1980, the red wolf was considered extinct in the wild.

In 1977, captive red wolf pairs developed their first litters. Biologist took great care to maintain the wild instincts of this animals and to avoid creating a dependency on man.


In 1987, 4 pairs that red wolves were reintroduced come the wild ~ above the 120,000-acre Alligator River nationwide Wildlife Refuge in northeastern north Carolina. Each wolf was equipped through a radio transmitter so that biologists can monitor their movements. Added releases were made, and also the an initial wild reproduction arisen in 1988. The reintroduction area has been broadened to include extr federal and private lands, and also now encompasses around 500,000 acres. While the wild populace was approximated to be about 100 in the begin of 2014, the current population estimate is at its lowest level (10) since the late 1980s.

Early releases of red wolves at Alligator River caused high mortality, and some animals exhibited a yongin of human being considered to put them at risk due to the fact that of potential dispute with human activities. Therefore, number of island projects were created to serve as pre-reintroduction sites where the wolves can have their an initial experience in the wild with limited human contact. Wolves put on this islands have reproduced, and also the packs roam freely on the islands. The adult and/or young are subsequently captured and also used in reintroduction jobs such as the one in ~ the Alligator flow refuge. Bulls Island in the Cape Romain national Wildlife Refuge in south Carolina, Horn Island in the Gulf Islands nationwide Seashore in Mississippi, and St. Vincent national Wildlife Refuge in Florida to be the three island sites used as pre-reintroduction sites.

Disease and also parasites have also caused mortality among the reintroduced red wolf populations. Hookworm, heartworm, distemper, parvovirus and also others have taken their toll. Now, released and captive animals are vaccinated versus such maladies.

A second, speculative reintroduction website was selected in the great Smoky hills National Park to discover the feasibility that the red wolf"s re-establishment into the southerly Appalachian Mountains. The objectives of the experiment were to advice the red wolf communication with coyotes, livestock, and people.

A 1-year experimental release the a household group in 1991 to be successful and concluded by recapturing the animals. A full-scale reintroduction then began with the release of two family members groups in 1992. Movement of members of one group exterior the park and also cattle depredation by the second group forced temporary removed of these pets in 1994.

The Fish and also Wildlife Service likewise is working through the U.S. Forest service to evaluate National forest lands in the southerly Appalachians and also elsewhere what might be perfect as future reintroduction sites.


Red wolves remain amongst the world’s many endangered species. The international Union because that Conservation the Nature as “Critically Endangered”.

On April 19, 2018, USFWS perfect its Species status Assessment (SSA) and five-year review for the critically endangered red wolf and also confirmed what has been self-evident - the wild populace is in crisis and also could walk extinct within eight years. Termination that the recovery regimen would inevitably result in the ns of the last populace of red wolves, rendering the species “Extinct in the Wild”, and also reducing it to a “museum curio.”

Although the red wolf recovery program once served together a model for effective recovery that wolves, political barriers and also consistent mismanagement by the USFWS have actually seriously threatened the ongoing existence the this highly imperiled species. In 2014, the USFWS stopped reintroducing captive-born red wolves into the wild, end implementing the Red wolf Adaptive Management plan that limited hybridization with coyotes, and even started issuing death permits to landowners. In its most recent proposal announced in 2016, the company called to location most the the last remaining wild red wolf in captivity.

In 2018, a commonwealth judge ruled the USFWS has actually a duty under the ESA come protect and also conserve red wolves and also that your decisions come halt wild publication and permit landowners to death red wolf violated their legal requirements under the ESA. Read more.

In November 2020, the Southern environmental Law facility (SELC) sued USFWS for violations the the ESA linked with the agency’s brand-new policies the prohibit proven management strategies to recoup the world’s just remaining population of critically threatened red wolves. In January 2021, U.S. Ar Court judge Terrence Boyle ruled that USFWS must develop a plan by in march 1, 2021 come resume the successful practice of releasing captive red wolves into the Red wolf Recovery Area in phibìc Carolina. The court bespeak temporarily prohibits the company from implementing its recent policy change barring release of captive wolves into the wild. Read more. 

In February 2021, USFWS released 2 male red wolves onto Alligator River nationwide Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina, boosting the total known population of wild red wolf from 8 to 10.

In might 2021, USFWS released 4 adult red wolves into the Red wolf Recovery Area and placed four captive born pups with a wild red wolf mother. The wild populace now stands in ~ 9 well-known red wolves, after three of the released adult wolf were discovered dead (presumably from vehicle strikes) and two wild born wolf were uncovered dead together well.

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Red wolves are very endangered, yet we still have time to save them.

The Service’s departure from its own accepted and also proven monitoring practices has resulted in the corresponding decrease in the population. What USFWS, the an extremely agency charged v protecting endangered species, demands to do is restore the ar program to the exact same level the intensity before 2014 that accomplished success in bringing around a work wolf population that as soon as numbered over 130 animals.