Red wolf

One of the rarest canines in existence is the Red Wolf (Canis rufus) which number about 100 in the wild and have a captive breeding population of about 200 individuals. The Red Wolf was once common throughout southern part of the United States, but hunting and habitat destruction brought it to the verge of extinction.

Another threat to this species was inbreeding with coyotes which threatened to hybridize this species out of existence. By 1967 the wolf was placed on the register of endangered species, and in 1973 the Endangered Species Law was adopted, affording protection to the wolf and other rare and endangered plants and animals.

Credit: - USFWS

By 1980 wildlife biologists deemed the red wolf population as being extinct in the wild, so a remaining small wild population of 17 individuals was captured in the swamps of Louisiana and Texas to participate in breeding programs across the country. Offspring from this program were released in various remote locations (mostly islands) where coyotes were not present. Finally a 1.7 million acre preserve was created in a marshy area near the Outer Banks of North Carolina where red wolves were released in the hope of establishing a wild population. This program was successful and a small population of wild wolf became established. Today, red wolves are thought to number about 100 individuals, all of which are believed to be on this reserve.

Red wolves grow to about 50 – 80 pounds, smaller than their cousins to the north, the grey wolf. Red wolves have a distinct reddish cast to their fur. The red wolf prefers warm humid climates and dense habits such as coastal swamps. They eat small rodents, rabbits, raccoons and the occasional deer. The red wolf is found in packs of 3-5 individuals, usually the mated pair and some of their offspring. The red wolf is very shy and mostly nocturnal. Hybridization with the coyote is viewed as the most serious threat to the survival of this species.

Article by FCFCDB

Nature Notes for 12/8/2013