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