Learn Why the Red Wolf Became an Endangered Species & Red Wolf Conservation Attempts

Learn Why the Red Wolf Became an Endangered Species & Red Wolf Conservation Attempts
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Red Wolves

Red wolves received their name from the red characteristics their fur coat possesses. Their reddish color is commonly be seen behind their ears, legs, and neck. These wolves typically weigh 45-80 pounds and can grow to a height of 26 inches. These wolves are considered to be highly social animals among fellow wolves of their species. They become the most active during the peak hours of the morning and during the late hours of the evening. These wolves can live up to 8 years in the wild but are rarely seen in their natural habitat. Most remain in captivity, where they can live up to 15 years.


The main cause of the red wolves endangerment is due to deforestation. Severe deforestation caused the red wolves to loose their natural habitats and food supplies. Predators living within the red wolves’ habitats also caused their population to diminish. As a result, the remaining 17 red wolves in the wild were caught and placed into captivity in 1973, which is when the first red wolf recovery plan was put into action.

Endangered Red Wolf

In 1973, the red wolf was placed on the endangered species list. The red wolf endangered species population contained only 17 known red wolves remaining in the wild at this time. They were captured by biologists, where 14 of the wolves were then used to repopulate the red wolf population. Unfortunately, these efforts were not enough. In 1980, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service declared the red wolves extinct in the wild.

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

In 1987, red wolves received a second chance for survival. Four pairs of red wolves, which were born in captivity, were released into the wild in North Carolina. The wolves began breeding, removing them from extinction in the wild. The Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge set land aside for over 100-120 red wolves to run freely in their natural environment to reestablish the red wolf population. This is the only region where red wolves can be found in the wild.

However, while it was beneficial, this project caused certain consequences to occur. Inbreeding with coyotes native to that area began to take place. This is the number one threat to the current red wolf population. This land in North Carolina is currently working to reduce the number of coyotes in the area to allow the red wolf population to increase.

There are currently about 40 captive facilities being used as part of the Species Survival Plan. These facilities are used to breed the red wolves in captivity in effort to remove them from the endangered species list.


“Red Wolf Recovery Project” October 17, 2009 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services

“Red Wolf” Fossil Rim Wildlife Center

“Southeast Wolves” Defenders of the Wild

Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7326810@N08/4108641262/