Red Wolf - Canine on the Brink of Extinction
The red wolf (Canis lupus rufus) is a critically endangered species of wolf which was once very populous, roaming the American South. Originally, this species' range extended from all over the gulf coast to the Ohio River Valley and as far north as Pennsylvania, and as far west as Missouri. This amazing animal was the top of its food chain in almost every environment in which it thrived, including swamps, plains and forests.
Extinct in the wild by 1980, the only red wolves left in the world were living in captivity, until some years later when a reintroduction program successfully bred some wild red wolves in the forests of North Carolina. Currently there are still very few individuals with an estimated total of 100 or so in the wild and 300 all together.
Fact: red wolves grow to be a shoulder height of 31 inches at the most (79 cm) and 65 inches long (165 cm). The largest top out at around 90 pounds (41 kg) - though most average somewhere around 55 pounds (25 kg). This size makes them the middle dog of wild canines of North America between the coyote and the gray wolf. Despite their name, the actual coloring of these wolves is more of a ruddy brown than a true red that you'd expect to see in - for example - a red fox.
Fossil records show that the origin of this species can be traced up to 2 million years ago, and as vicious predators, it is believed that the indigenous people, various Native American tribes hunted and put bounties on these dangerous and amazing wolves.
Like many canids, the red wolf lives in packs of extended family which is overseen by a dominant breeding pair. They mark their territory through scenting, and are fiercely territorial in the wild, protecting their hunting grounds from rival predators, ensuring that their diet of mostly small rodents and rabbits is exclusively for the pack.