Saturday, April 26, 2014

Coyote? Nope, it's a...

Red Wolf!

Most of the guesses for this week's Who Am I? were Coyote. Those were good guesses, because red wolves and coyotes are such close relatives that they can hybridize. And do. Why? Because there are so few red wolves left that finding a mate of the right species can be darn near impossible. It brings to mind the saying, "all the good ones are already taken". 

Photo credit: R. Nordsven/USFWS
Red wolves are a good news/bad news tale of conservation. The good news is that they are a tremendous success story, a species resurrected from extinction in the wild by reintroduction of captive-bred animals to native habitat in North Carolina. Four breeding pairs were released into the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in 1987, and the first wild pups were born the following spring. 

Wild red wolf pup. Photo credit: B. Harrison/USFWS

Red wolves roamed throughout the eastern and southeastern United States, but habitat destruction and "vermin eradication" programs wiped them out. In 500 years of sharing habitat with humans, there has never been a documented case of a red wolf attacking a human.

Fish and Wildlife Services estimates the current wild population to number 90-110 individuals; another 200 red wolves are part of the captive breeding Species Survival Plan. The Point Defiance Zoo is the flagship facility for the Red Wolf SSP, but 37 other facilities participate in the captive breeding program. To help bolster the wild population and increase its genetic diversity, pups born in captivity are sometimes "fostered" by a wild red wolf mother.

Photo credit: R. Nordsven/USFWS

The bad news? Coyotes are still considered vermin in North Carolina and elsewhere in the U.S. Red wolves are shot, apparently because they are mistaken for coyotes. So far four wild red wolves have been killed in 2014. 

The Southern Environmental Law Center says:

    "To prevent wolves interbreeding with coyotes—another threat to the wolf population—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. 
    As of July 26, 2013, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission authorized coyote hunting both during the day and at night with artificial spotlights within the area designated for red wolf recovery. "

We are fortunate to have these wolves around to 

enjoy. They inspire everyone who knows their 

story to have hope for other endangered wildlife.


  1. Beautiful animals and so sad that they get shot because people think they are coyotes. Sad too that people think coyotes are vermin. Have a serene Sunday and let us all partake of some big easy today.
    Best wishes Molly

  2. thanks for sharing about this wolf. Didn't know about the red wolf.

  3. Wolves are magnificent creatures!

  4. They are truly beautiful and do look a lot like coyotes. It's terrible that coyotes are considered vermin. I think that it was before we "met" on the internet that someone trespassed on my land and shot a coyote. It was horrible. I wish we could leave all these wild canines in peace.

  5. Cool, I don't think I have ever seen a picture of a red wolf before! I am scared of coyotes because they attack little dogs and eat them. :( Do wolves do that too?


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