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Red Wolf

Photo Credit: Barron Crawford/U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Canis rufus
 
OTHER NAMES: Brush Wolf
 
DESCRIPTION: A red wolf is a medium sized wild canid that is 3 to 4 feet long and weighs 40 to 90 lbs. It is much larger and more robust than the more common coyote. The pelage is a coarse tawny-cinnamon mixed with gray and black along the sides. A darker shade of gray and black is evident along the back. The legs are longer and the feet and ears are larger than the coyote. Neck and nose are usually white and the tail is bushy with a black tip. Its nose, ears, neck and outer surfaces of the legs are tawny.
 
DISTRIBUTION: The red wolf was a native to the southeastern United States and ranged from the Atlantic coast to central Texas and from the Gulf Coast to central Missouri and southern Illinois. Although extirpated from the southeastern United States, the last known population existed in southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana in the late 1970’s. By the 1980’s, there were no known wild populations in existence. Present day red wolf populations exist in captivity with the exception of a reintroduction to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. The red wolf was extirpated from Alabama in the early 1920’s.
 
HABITAT:  Prefers bottomland river forest and swamps with various stages of succession but will utilized agricultural land and coastal prairie marshes. In general, they can thrive in most areas that have adequate prey populations and little human persecution.
 
Life History and Ecology: Red wolves live in packs and have a complex social organization. Packs are primarily a family group that is led by a life long mated, territorial pair. Breeding begins in February and March with a gestation of 61 to 63 days. The female will give birth to 1 to 11 pups that are born in April and May and are weaned in 8 to 10 weeks. Young reach maturity in 22 to 46 months. The female will give birth to one litter per year. Each litter is born in a den that can be located in trunks of hollow trees, stream banks, sand knolls or under rock outcropping. Both males and females help in rearing young.
 
They are primarily nocturnal but may move during daylight hours during the winter. Home range of a pack can range from 10 to 100 square miles. Food sources range from white-tailed deer, raccoons, muskrats, rabbits, small rodents, and birds to livestock (calves and pigs). Life expectancy is about 4 to 13 years in the wild but captive animals may live up to 16 years. Perceived threats to livestock and humans led to eradication efforts including hunting, poisoning, and trapping. Other factors that helped in the decline of the red wolf were habitat destruction, as well as competition and hybridization with the coyote.
 
REFERENCES:
 
Animal Info – Red Wolf (Internet)
 
Wildlife Science Center – Red Wolf (Internet)
 
WildWNC.org : Animals : Red Wolf (Internet)
 
Red Wolf, Canis rufus, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Internet)
 
AUTHOR:
 
Phil Miller, Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries

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