Red Wolf

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Red Wolf

Christopher Smith

May 19, 2014

        Throughout history, the Red Wolf has been a topic. Stories of wolves attacking humans have played a huge role in how wolves have been viewed. Most famous of the wolves is the grey wolves of the west and the Mexican wolf in Texas, but there is another wolf out there very few know about. The red wolf of the east is the American wolf.


        The red wolf originally was located as far north as New York, down to Florida. Early England settlers of the territory would often kill the red wolf for the fur trade or to remove them from the area to be populated. Similar to both coyotes and the grey wolf, facial features and similar habits of a grey wolf, the smaller size of the red wolf has also led to it being classed as its own breed. In 1973, the red wolves were declared endangered. Pushed to the southern shore of Texas and Louisiana, 14 red wolves were captured using toothless traps and brought into a captive breeding program. Shortly after in 1980 the red wolves were declared extinct due to no red wolves were out in the wild. In 1987, the wood of Alligator National Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina became the first attempt of a restoration program for the red wolves. This process is to help in the red wolves introduction back into the wild.


        Preservation of the red wolf has been a learning experience for everyone involve. New techniques and research have led to some interesting facts. The red wolf is more than just similar to the coyote; the red wolf also shares similar DNA. The research shows through evolution, both the coyote and the red wolf evolved. This close relationship has allowed cross breeding between them. Any Hybrids of the Red wolf and coyote is killed when noticed to maintain a purebred red wolf. Although, this sounds extreme, this action should be looked at as a preservation process for the red wolf. Without this effort, the red wolf would be lost forever. The main reason for the crossbreeding is because of the loss of wolf pack member. If there were no loss then crossbreeding would be minimal to non-existent.

        Most of the reasons for the loss of a wolf pack member come from careless hunters and automotive accidents. The state of North Carolina allows hunters to hunt coyote in the dark of night. Allowing the hunting of coyote enables hunter’s who do not like the red wolf to kill them. Although it is illegal to kill red wolves, a handy excuse is that the hunter was unable to tell if it was a red wolf or a coyote because it was dark. By allowing hunting within the five counties, red wolves are located, the hunters efforts would not only hurt the population of red wolves but also damage the coyote control efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife.


        According to Southern Environmental Law Center (2014), “the U.S. Fish and Wildlife sterilizes coyotes that have territories within red wolf habitat. Shooting sterilized coyotes will undo effective coyote population control efforts and further jeopardize the native red wolf population” (Coyote Control).


        My thoughts on the subject of preservation of the red wolf packs, is I approve of what is taking place. In one hand, it is wrong to kill an animal for no reason. In the other hand, hunters go out of their way to be irresponsible, at times and the government has not followed through by outlawing night hunting or hunting within the area. The situation allows very little else to do within the project. The whole purpose of the project is to save the species from complete extinction. The project has brought back 300 living purebred red wolves. Red Wolf Coalition, Animal Welfare Institute, and Defenders of Wildlife joined together to start a lawsuit against the allowance of coyote hunting within the red wolf areas. July 26, 2013, hunting within the five counties, which the red wolf project continues was suspended by Wake County Superior Court. The court noted hunting within the areas was a violation of the endangered species act (Southern Environmental Law Center, 2014).


        The red wolf introduction into the Albemarle Peninsula does not help or hurt the area or the people who reside in the near area.


        According to The Slate (2014), “It’s not like red wolves directly affect most people’s day-to-day lives; they don’t clean the air or sequester carbon. They very likely don’t harbor a cure for cancer or diabetes or erectile dysfunction. Reintroducing them isn’t going to bring back American chestnut trees or restore the Southeast’s long-gone long-leaf pine forests” (para. 6).


        I believe helping the red wolf is more than about the red wolf; it is about the society around the red wolf. As a society, it has made it near impossible to survive for many animals. In some case the society, which has inhabited areas throughout the continent has made several animals extinct. If something is not done, I believe the society is in essence showing the societies fate as well in the future. There are responsibilities we all should take part in.


        With the success of the first project in North Carolina, a new project began in Tennessee. In the heart of the Smoky Mountains National Park, red wolf packs are given another chance for survival. November of 1992, the first of the red wolf packs were released into wild. This project had some problems, which only allowed it to last 6 years before the project was ended. In the Smoky Mountain National Park, the red wolf pups were faced with barriers, which made it nearly impossible to survive. The barriers range from disease, territory struggles, and starvation. Parvovirus and parasites were found to be a big problem that inhibited the survival of the red wolf packs. Territory pressures from the area bear a coyote population brought a huge amount on the red wolfs, which forced them usually to stay outside the park boundaries. To complicate things more, the Smoky Mountain National Park was unable to sustain the food demand of the red wolves. The red wolf will occasionally hunt deer, but this is not their healthy eating habit. The red wolves do not usually hunt large animals, making it unnecessary to hunt in packs. Normal hunting habits include rodents, rabbits, and raccoons (Florida State University, 2014).

Opinion conclusion

        In my opinion, the project has been successful. The project has taken a once endangered animal, later extinct, and has successfully reintroduced the red wolf into their native area. From 14 wolves there is now 300 with 100 of them in the wild. My recommendation would be to take a national refuge area and start other recovery projects. Just because the project didn’t find success in the Smoky Mountain National Park, does not mean it will not work elsewhere. Another suggestion would be to start rehabilitating/ restoring the natural processes of the Albemarle Peninsula ecosystems to keep up with the rising of the ocean water. The human inhabitant of the area has a responsibility to their environment in how they impact the area. To be mindful of what is happening around you because of your presence, would go along way in helping our environment and to the animals who inhabited the area long before we moved in.

Update September 18, 2016

        There has been a change in how the Red Wolf is addressed. After numerous wins by the Defenders of Wildlife, The US Fish and Wildlife has almost, if not has, abandoned the Red Wolves. They are to be housed in zoo’s, this would make the Red Wold extinct once again. Now there will be a few left in the wild, but stopping them from cross breading or shot by hunters would not continue. The USFWS has said they would at some point look into re-entry possibilities for the Red Wolves into the wild. Although no plan or information provided is giving any type of information to even think it will be a topic in the future.

Here is a partial message I received by my dear friend- Jamie Rappaport Clark (President, Defenders of Wildlife).


We could hardly believe it when we heard it.

This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans that would effectively abandon their obligation to protect and recover red wolves in the wild.

We can’t just sit idle at this news. We have to fight back.



Defenders research PDF on the Red Wolf–>


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Florida State University. (2014). Red wolf. Retrieved from
Southern Environmental Law Center. (2014). Coyote hunting in recovery area threatens red wolf. Retrieved from
The Slate. (2014). Are red wolves worth the trouble. Retrieved from

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