Red Wolf

Another Great Endangered Animal

Red Wolf (Canis rufus)

A red wolf is usually four to five feet in length, including its tail. This animal stands with a height of about 26 inches at the shoulder, and it typically weighs between 50 and 80 pounds. The size of a red wolf is similar to that of a male German shepherd dog. Red wolves’ fur color is mostly brown, buff, cinnamon, tan, and black. They are called red wolves because of the brown-red color mixed through the backs of their ears, necks, shoulders, and legs. The red wolf is delicate compared to its cousin, the grey wolf, and the red wolf has sharper, longer muzzles and prominent, pointed ears than its cousin.

Red wolves are extreme hunters because they have heightened senses that put those of humans to shame. Their senses of smell, sight, and hearing are way beyond what we are able to detect. During the night, red wolves are very active. They stalk silently across the land, except when they are letting out the occasional howl (which is thought to be a means of communicating and bonding). Red wolves are smaller than gray wolves, but larger than coyotes.
The red wolf’s tracks are about 3 to 4 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. Its front feet are usually broader and longer than its rear feet. Wolf tracks usually appear in a straight line, with rear footprints overlapping the front footprints. All wolves, including the red wolf, have adapted to long-distance travel over different types of terrain. Their toes can adapt to the uneven ground so the animal can maintain speed when necessary.

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Classification

Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Genus: Canis
Species: rufus
Subspecies (Southern U.S.): rufus

Where?

Historically, the red wolf lived as far north as Pennsylvania, as far south as Florida, and as far west as Texas. Today, wild red wolves can only be seen in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. However, there are many zoos that are part of the captive breeding program across the United States, including the Tallahassee Museum.

Is It Endangered?

The red wolf is considered one of the most endangered Canids in the world. They were hunted to extinction in the wild (meaning the population was so small it was not able to recover in the wild alone) by 1980 due to many predator control programs that were started in the 1960s. However, today, the red wolf is the first predator to be successfully brought back from extinction in the wild.

What's Being Done To Protect It

Captive breeding programs are the reason for the great success of the red wolf today. In the 1970’s captive breeding programs were started in areas across the United States (the Tallahassee Museum is one of these locations today). Even with the success of this animal, there has been some debate among scientists as to whether the red wolf is a distinct species that should be conserved or if it is simply a hybrid of the grey wolf and the coyote.