American Red Wolf
American Red Wolf
The American Red Wolf, or Canis rufus, is a wolf native to North America. They are mostly brown with some black fur, and their name comes from the reddish color on their head, legs, and ears. Red wolves weigh about 45-80 pounds in adulthood, stand at about 26 inches to their shoulder, and are about 4 feet long, which puts their size between the coyote and the grey wolf. Though what red wolves eat largely depends on the prey around them, common delectables are deer, raccoons, and smaller mammals like rodents. Red wolves will sometimes travel 20 miles in a day to find food. Red wolves live in packs of 5-8 animals made up of a breeding pair and their offspring. The older offspring will help raise the pups. Once the offspring reach 1-2 years old, they will leave, often to form their own pack. The breeding pair is bonded for life and usually has pups in April or May. There are less than 35 wild red wolves left, and they all live in North Carolina’s Albemarle Peninsula.
Why Are They Endangered?
The red wolf is the most endangered wolf in the world. In the wild there are currently less than 35 wolves, and in captivity there are 245 individuals in breeding facilities. They were first declared endangered in 1967, and by 1972 all remaining red wolves lived in a small area in Texas and Louisiana. The numbers continued to decline and in 1980 they were declared extinct in the wild. Four years later, the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) approved the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP)’s breeding plan, which had about 63 captive individuals at the time. In 1987 four breeding pairs were released into the wild in North Carolina. In 1992, a population of wolves was released into the wild of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This population was unsuccessful because of lack of prey, and the remaining wolves were moved to North Carolina. By 2006, the wild population of red wolves was up to 130 animals, but has decreased to 35 since. In the 19th century and the early 20th century, wolves were hunted and persecuted to the point of extinction. Red wolves are finding it hard to come back from that because of human-caused mortality, climate change, and habitat loss. Human caused mortality, like gunshots or car strikes, can kill breeders, which hurts the population in the wild. Climate change is also an issue because the area where wild red wolves live is only 3 feet above sea level, making it particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and sea level rise. Habitat loss is also harming the wild red wolf population. Human development fragments their habitat, making it hard for wolves to live in non-protected areas, which contributed to the wolves previous demise.
Red wolves are important to the environment because they keep the numbers of prey under control. In the deer’s case, this makes sure the deer don’t decimate the green forest growth, which in turn helps other animals. In the smaller prey’s case, it makes sure their populations don’t get out of check and consume all nutrients. Red wolves also help humans because they especially like animals like nutria and raccoons, who are often a nuisance to humans if populations get out of control. This will slow the damage to crops and other human things.
What Can You Do?
The Washington football team has finally changed their name, and they are looking for replacements. One such replacement is the Washington Red Wolves. This would be a great name because it would raise awareness for the red wolves, who are so endangered that there are only 35 left in the wild. They are not well known and really need awareness, so you can help by advocating for the Washington team to pick the red wolves as their mascot.
“Red Wolves.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/r/red-wolf/. Accessed 28 July 2020.
“Red Wolf.” The National Wildlife Federation. https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Mammals/Red-Wolf. Accessed 28 July 2020.
“Red Wolf.” U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. https://www.fws.gov/southeast/wildlife/mammals/red-wolf/. Accessed 28 July 2020.
*all pictures and videos used with permission, and/or taken from the sites above.
Cover Picture and Slide Picture 2 taken by ROBBIE GEORGE