In the heart of the southeastern United States, amidst the dense forests and marshy lowlands, a remarkable species struggles for survival. The red wolf, scientifically known as Canis lupus rufus, is a fascinating and endangered creature with a long history intertwined with the American landscape. 

Red wolves used to roam throughout the southeastern United States. Unfortunately, as of 2023, the only wild population of red wolves is located in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge has been a primary area for the reintroduction and protection of the red wolf in its native habitat. It comprises thousands of acres of diverse ecosystems, including swamps, forests, and wetlands, providing an ideal setting for red wolves to thrive. Within this refuge, dedicated teams and researchers work tirelessly to monitor and protect this critically endangered species. Currently, the wild population consists of approximately 20 individuals. 

The red wolf’s history in North America dates back thousands of years. Once distributed across the entire southeastern United States, these wolves were formidable predators in the region’s diverse ecosystems. However, their population began to decline dramatically due to habitat loss, hunting, and interbreeding with coyotes and gray wolves.

By the 20th century, red wolves faced the brink of extinction. Their plight captured the attention of conservationists, and efforts were launched to rescue this iconic species. For a detailed history of the Red Wolf Recovery Program, click here. 

Conservation efforts for red wolves, particularly in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina, are multifaceted. Some of the key actions and initiatives being undertaken to conserve red wolves in this refuge include:

Red Wolf Reintroduction: The ARNWR has been a critical site for the reintroduction of red wolves into their native habitat. Red wolves bred in captivity are released into the refuge to establish or bolster wild populations. This effort helps ensure the genetic diversity and overall health of the red wolf population.

Monitoring and Research: The refuge actively monitors the red wolf population through tracking, radio telemetry, and camera trapping. Researchers and wildlife biologists collect data on red wolf behavior, movements, and health. This information is essential for making informed management decisions and ensuring the well-being of the wolves.

Habitat Restoration: Efforts are made to restore and maintain suitable red wolf habitat within the ARNWR. This includes controlled burns, reforestation, and the management of invasive species to create an environment where red wolves can find sufficient prey and den sites.

Community Engagement and Education: Conservation organizations working in collaboration with ARNWR engage with local communities to raise awareness about red wolves, their importance, and the challenges they face. Public education programs, outreach events, and guided tours help foster support for red wolf conservation.

Conflict Resolution: Managing potential conflicts between red wolves and local livestock or domestic animals is essential. Techniques like the use of guardian animals, secure fencing, and education of landowners are employed to reduce such conflicts.

Advocacy and Policy Support: Conservation organizations, scientists, and advocates work to influence policies and regulations that protect red wolves. They engage with government agencies and decision-makers to ensure legal safeguards and funding for red wolf recovery programs.

Collaboration: The conservation of red wolves is a collaborative effort involving multiple organizations, including federal and state agencies, non-profit groups, and research institutions. This teamwork is essential for pooling resources, expertise, and support.

 In April of 2022, Carolina Tiger Rescue became the 50th facility to join the Red Wolf Species Survival Program after welcoming two young female red wolves to the sanctuary. Both females, Caroline and Mist, are a vital part of the RWSSP. Carolina Tiger’s role in the RWSSP is to help free up space at other facilities for the continuation of the breeding program. In accordance with Carolina Tiger Rescue’s mission and values, no breeding will take place at the sanctuary. 

The Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) is a cooperative and scientifically-driven initiative aimed at conserving and safeguarding the critically endangered red wolf, Canis lupus rufus. Managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the SSP coordinates the breeding and genetic management of red wolves held in accredited zoos and facilities across the United States. The primary goal of the SSP is to maintain a healthy and genetically diverse population of red wolves in captivity while also facilitating reintroductions into their native habitat. By carefully managing the genetic makeup of captive red wolves, the SSP ensures that these animals are well-prepared for potential releases into the wild, contributing to the long-term survival of the species. 

The red wolf’s survival depends on ongoing support from organizations like Carolina Tiger Rescue, as well as public awareness and advocacy. By learning about red wolves and supporting their conservation, we can help ensure that this iconic species remains a vital part of America’s natural heritage.

About Carolina Tiger Rescue

Carolina Tiger Rescue is a 501(c)3 nonprofit wildlife sanctuary whose mission is saving and protecting wild cats in captivity and in the wild.

Carolina Tiger Rescue

1940 Hanks Chapel Rd. Pittsboro, NC 27312 (919) 542-4684 (919) 542-4454

Wildlife should be in the Wild



  • We believe the ideal home for wildlife is in the wild.
  • We believe it is critical to conserve their native habitats.
  • We believe wild animals should not be kept as pets.
  • We believe captive breeding should ONLY be done in accordance with Species Survival plans.
  • We believe all wild animals, both captive and in their native habitats, deserve to be treated with respect and not exploited for entertainment and commercial purposes.

Visit Carolina Tiger Rescue

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Public Tours

Twilight Tours

Coming out for a tour is a great way to learn more about the animals that call Carolina Tiger Recue home. We offer many different types of tours.  Public tours are great for adults and families. Twilight tours are for adults only (18 years of age and older). Tiger Tales are a perfect option if you want to bring out really young children. Find the tour that is right for you and enjoy a walk through the sanctuary.

For all tours, tickets must be purchased in advance.

Have Fun Learning at Carolina Tiger Rescue

Field Trips

Field Trips

Virtual Field Trips link

Virtual Field Trips

Education is key to our mission.  We enjoy teaching "kids" of all ages!  Our field trips, both virtual and onsite, are ideal for groups of kids.  Our "Kid for a Day" Adult Camp provides a unique learning opportunity while allowing adults to channel their inner child.  While all of these opportunities are structured differently, in the end we want everyone to walk away knowing more about the animals we care for and what they can do to help protect them.

Bobcat at Carolina Tiger Rescue
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Coatimundi at Carolina Tiger Rescue
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Cougar at Carolina Tiger Rescue
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Kinkajou at Carolina Tiger Rescue
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Lion at Carolina Tiger Rescue
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NGSD at Carolina Tiger Rescue
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Porcupine at Carolina Tiger Rescue
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Raccoon at Carolina Tiger Rescue
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Red Wolf at Carolina Tiger Rescue
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Red Wolves
Serval at Carolina Tiger Rescue
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Tiger at Carolina Tiger Rescue
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Keeper Stripes

Get involved at Carolina Tiger Rescue

Individual volunteering at Carolina Tiger Rescue

Individual Volunteering

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Group Volunteering

There are so many ways to be a part of Carolina  Tiger Rescue.  Individual volunteers are able to help in many aspects of our work, including animal care, tour guides, construction, and gift shop assistance.  Work groups come from community groups, colleges, work places, and more!  It’s a great way to spend a day and it helps care for the cats.