<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> USFWS-Red Wolf Recovery Program

Red Wolf Recovery Project

Bud Fazio, Coordinator

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
P. O. Box 1969
Manteo, NC 27954
phone: 252-473-1131

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Red Wolf, Canis rufus

The red wolf is one of two species of wolves in the world, the other being the gray wolf, Canis lupus. As their name suggests, red wolves are known for the characteristic reddish color of their fur most apparent behind the ears and along the neck and legs, but are mostly brown and buff colored with some black along their backs. Intermediate in size to gray wolves and coyotes, the average adult red wolf weighs 45-80 pounds, stands about 26 inches at the shoulder and is about 4 feet long from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail.

Red wolves are social animals that live in packs consisting of a breeding adult pair and their offspring of different years, typically five to eight animals. Red wolves prey on a variety of wild mammals such as raccoon, rabbit, white-tailed deer, nutria, and other rodents. Most active at dusk and dawn, red wolves are elusive and generally avoid humans and human activity.

The red wolf is one of the world’s most endangered wild canids. Once common throughout the southeastern United States, red wolf populations were decimated by the 1960s due to intensive predator control programs and loss of habitat. A remnant population of red wolves was found along the Gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana. After being declared an endangered species in 1973, efforts were initiated to locate and capture as many wild red wolves as possible. Of the 17 remaining wolves captured by biologists, 14 became the founders of a successful captive breeding program. Consequently, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service declared red wolves extinct in the wild in 1980.

By 1987, enough red wolves were bred in captivity to begin a restoration program on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina. Since then, the experimental population area has expanded to include three national wildlife refuges, a Department of Defense bombing range, state-owned lands, and private property, spanning a total of 1.5 million acres.

An estimated 100 red wolves roam the wilds of northeastern North Carolina and another 150 comprise the captive breeding program, still an essential element of red wolf recovery. Interbreeding with the coyote (an exotic species not native to North Carolina) has been recognized as the most significant and detrimental threat affecting recovery of red wolves in their native habitat. Currently, adaptive management efforts are making good progress in reducing the threat of coyotes while building the wild red wolf population in northeastern North Carolina.

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