Red wolves are considered “the American wolf.” Once native to the eastern part of the United States, aggressive predator mitigation strategies and habitat loss virtually wiped them out in the mid 1900s. After a tumultuous few decades, the RWSSP reports that there are now approximately 20 individuals left in the wild in eastern North Carolina, and a little more than 200 individuals in captivity. Red wolves are critically important to our ecosystems and could help control the overpopulation of a number of invasive species were they to return to and thrive in their native environment.


In the wild, red wolves average between 7-8 years. In captivity they can live up to 15 years. 

Shape & Size

Red wolves are smaller than their gray wolf cousins. Their average weight is between 45-80 pounds. They are larger than coyotes.

Color Pattern

The red wolf's coat is mostly brown. They have black fur along their back and reddish color on their ears, heads, and legs which is where they get their name from. Their heads have a wider muzzle than coyotes.


Red wolves are incredibly shy animals and the few that are left in the wild are rarely seen. Their shy nature makes them hard to track in the wild. They are also nervous animals by nature and prefer to be left alone.


Currently, red wolves are only found in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern, NC. There, they live in marsh and prairie coastal land. 

Principal Threats

Red wolves are listed as critically endangered and humans are their primary threat. They can often be mistaken for coyotes and are at times killed for being on farmers land. They also, will at times mate with coyotes which hybridizes the species.

Canis rufus

Range Map


Historically, red wolves were found all over the Southeastern United States. They were often found in coastal prairie and marsh habitats but are suited to wooded areas as well.


Red wolves typically eat small mammals like raccoons, rabbits, rodents, and the invasive nutria. They are, however, capable of taking down deer as well.

Reproductive Habits

The red wolf has a gestation period of 60-63 days and on average has anywhere between 3-12 young in their litter. The red wolf reaches sexual maturity around 3 years of age.


Red Wolves are social animals that live in close-knit packs. Typical packs consist of five to eight animals, including a breeding adult pair and their offspring of different years. Older offspring will often assist the breeding pair in raising the pups until they leave the pack or disperse to form their own pack. Wolf packs have specific territories that they will defend against other canids ranging from 20-80 square miles.


Red wolves are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List and are, in fact, one of the rarest canids on the planet. They are at risk of extinction due to habitat loss, poaching, and hybridization, where a red wolf may mate with a coyote, which muddles the genetics of the red wolf.

Fun Facts

  • There are between 5-8 wolves in a pack, they form much smaller packs than their cousin the Gray Wolf.
  • There are less than 20 red wolves left in the wild.
  • Red wolves eat nutria, an invasive species in central NC.

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.

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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.