wild canid, the red wolf resembles the coyote but is larger
and more robust. Its legs and ears are relatively longer
than the coyote's. The red wolf's coloration is similar
to that of the coyote, but the tawny element is more pronounced,
and the pelage is usually somewhat coarser. This species
is slightly smaller than the gray wolf (C. lupus) with a
more slender and elongated head. It's pelage is shorter
and coarser than in any race of lupus.
studies in Texas and Louisiana, and more recent investigations
in North Carolina, indicate that the diet of the red wolf
will include whatever small to medium-sized mammals occur
in abundance within the area in question. The last survivors
in the wild in Texas and Louisiana fed primarily on nutria,
rabbits, and carrion. Studies at Alligator River National
Wildlife Refuge indicate not only a wide range of smaller
mammals found on the refuge, but also a heavy dependance
on white-tailed deer by red wolfs released into the wild.
Historical accounts indicate that prey could also include
young calves and other smaller domestic animals.
is thought that red wolves mate for life. Breeding occurs
in February and March, and pups are born in April and May.
The average litter size is about 4.6 young. Our experiences,
to date, indicate that without veterinary care, pup mortality
in the wild may be significant.
wolves have been known to establish dens in hollow tree
trunks, stream banks, abandoned dens of other animals, drain
pipes, and culverts. They have been known to excavate dens
in sand knolls in coastal areas. Dens found excavated in
the coastal plain region of Texas and Louisiana averaged
about 8 feet in length and had an entrance diameter of about
2 to 2.5 feet. Two dens have been documented during reintroductions.
One was beneath a rock outcrop, and the other was under
hay bales in a barn. Evidence suggests that the pups spend
more time in beds located in areas of good cover than in
the den, especially after they are 6 weeks of age.
males and females take part in rearing the young. Frequently,
young of the previous year have been found in the vicinity
of dens, but they do not appear to participate in the guarding,
feeding, or training of the pups. Red wolves apparently
exist as small family units (packs) of an adult pair and
their young. The offspring disperse at about 6 months of
and Population Level
red wolf was once found throughout the southeastern United
States, from the Atlantic coast to central Texas and from
the Gulf Coast to central Missouri and southern Illinois.
Between the period of 19OO to 192O, red wolves were extirpated
from most of the eastern portion of their range. A small
number persisted in the wild in southeastern Texas and southwestern
Louisiana until the late 197Os. By 198O, the species was
determined to be extinct in the wild.
present red wolf population of at least 249 animals exists
primarily in captivity. Two hundred (2OO) animals are located
in 22 captive breeding facilities in the United States.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a major captive breeding
project at Graham, Washington. This project is administered
by contract with the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Washington.
To date, there are 26 to 3O adult and yearling red wolves
in the wild at the Fish and Wildlife Service's Alligator
River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina; there
are 16 animals in the wild at the Great Smoky Mountains
National Park in Tennessee. Also, there are seven animals
in the wild on three islands managed as propagation projects.
last red wolves were found in coastal prairie and marsh
habitat because this was the last area in which the animals
were allowed to remain. Any habitat area in the southeastern
United States of sufficient size, which provides adequate
food, water, and the basic cover requirement of heavy vegetation,
should be suitable habitat for the red wolf. Telemetry studies
indicate that red wolf home range requirements vary from
about 25 to 5O square miles.
human populations and extensive land clearing initially
affected the red wolf in two ways. First and probably foremost,
these animals, along with other large predators, were killed
in great numbers. Second, the extensive clearing of forest
and hardwood river bottoms eliminated much of the prime
red wolf habitat. The disappearance of the last red wolves
from the wild is attributed to two factors: habitat changes
which favored expansion of the historic coyote range into
red wolf territory, and the local breakdown of red wolf
social structure (caused by extensive trapping, poisoning,
and shooting). The resulting situation of unmated red wolves
in close proximity to coyotes apparently encouraged interbreeding.
Competition with the more adaptable coyote and parasitic
infections such as mange, hookworms, and heartworms, are
of secondary importance in the final decline of the species.
limited red wolf recovery program was first initiated in
1967. With the passage of the Endangered Species Act of
1973, an expanded program to save this species was initiated
by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation with
the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the
Texas Parks amd Wildlife Department. In November 1973, as
part of the overall red wolf recovery program, the Fish
and Wildlife Service entered into an agreement with the
Metropolitan Park Board of Tacoma, Washington, to initiate
a red wolf captive breeding program at the Point Defiance
Zoo in Tacoma. The objectives of this program were to certify
the genetic purity of wild-caught wolves, and to breed animals
for future reintroduction into the wild and/or distribution
to selected captive breeding facilities. By late 1975, it
was concluded that red wolves could not be maintained in
their limited range in Texas and Louisiana. Therefore, recovery
efforts were directed toward exploring the feasibility of
using captive stock to reestablish red wolf populations
in other areas of the species' historic range. With this
decision, a final effort was made to capture as many of
the remaining red wolves in the wild as possible.
fact sheet comes courtesy of the United States Fish and