Red Wolf, Canis rufus
The red wolves houses at Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center are on loan from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services as a part of the federal species survival plan (SSP) for the red wolves. The red wolf is a critically endangered mammal and efforts are being made to restore this species to its original habitat. Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center has three enclosures which house the wolves, one is off exhibit and designated for breeding, the other two usually contain two to three wolves for public viewing; occasionally a breeding pair may be placed on exhibit as well per the SSP recommendations. Our red wolf ambassadors enjoy high quality dog chow and a variety of meat supplements. They can sometimes be found with a deer or beaver carcass, donated by legal sources.
The red wolf’s historic range covered the southeastern portion of the United States, reaching as far west as Texas and north to Illinois.
One managed wild population of approximately 200 Red Wolves in the Outer Banks area of North Carolina covering 1.7 million acres of private and public land known as Alligator River. An additional site is at St. Vincent’s Island National Wildlife Refuge near Apalachicola, Florida.
Preferred habitat is warm, moist, and densely vegetated; although they were also present in pine forest, bottom land hardwood forests, coastal prairies, and marshes.
4 – 5 feet in length from tip of nose to tip of tail; approximately 26 inches tall at the shoulder; weight 40-75 lbs.
Red Wolves are mostly brown and buff colored with some black along their backs, often with a reddish, cinnamon color on their ears, head and legs. Red wolves are smaller than gray wolves and larger than coyotes. They have tall pointed ears and long legs with large feet.
High pitched howl, low grunts or barks.
White-tailed deer, raccoons, and smaller mammals such as rabbits, rodents, and nutria.
Breeding season is once per year, January through March. One to nine pups are born 63 days later in April or May. Their eyes open at about 10 days, and it is another few weeks before the sire and dam allow the pups to emerge from the den. Pups remain with their parents until they find a mate of their own, usually at about 2 years of age. Red wolves are generally monogamous, and will remain with the same mate for many years.
Red Wolves can life 7 – 8 years in the wild and up to 15 years in captivity.
Some credit can be given to red wolves for control of nuisance species. Two dietary studies show that red wolves are known to feed on deer, nutria, raccoons, marsh rabbits and small rodents. We can assume red wolves contribute to the control of these nuisance species with respect to crop damage by deer, rabbits and rodents; with respect to levee, road and farm equipment damage via nutria; and with respect to predation upon nesting ground birds (quail, turkey, etc.) and sea turtle nests by raccoons.
The red wolf is an umbrella species. Ecosystems which support and conserve Red Wolves are like ecosystems which maintain a diversity of other wildlife, plants, habitat and landscape features. This creates a balanced ecosystem, its predators included, which means relatively healthy prey populations (deer, etc.) available for hunting, wildlife viewing and outdoor recreation, diversity and other functions on the landscape. In the same respect, red wolves help control over-population of prey species. There is data showing evidence that sea turtles’ hatching success increases when there are lower numbers of nest raiders like raccoons. Duke University has a research study, in partnership with Defenders of Wildlife, evaluating “ecosystem services” – air and water purification, flood control, climate regulation and plant pollination – provided by conserving red wolf habitat in North Carolina.
The following is from a quarterly report written by David Rabon, Jr., PhD, Recovery Coordinator Red Wolf Recovery Program.