Species Survival Plan
White-tailed deer, raccoons, rabbits, rodents and nutria
Originally Native To
24 inches at shoulder
45 - 80 lb.
Intermediate in size between gray wolves and coyotes; coat color is typically brown with red and black accents along the legs, head and ears
62 - 63 days
1 - 8 pups
April - May
Wild 7 - 10 years
Captivity 12 - 15 years
Packs of 5 - 8 wolves made up of an alpha pair and offspring of different ages
About Red Wolf
The howl of the red wolf was once heard throughout the southeastern United States from Texas to Illinois, but now it has become a rarity. The red wolf has become one of the world’s most endangered species. Smaller than its northern cousin, the gray wolf, and larger than the coyote, the red wolf weighs 45-80 pounds.
Their coat is a mixture of brown, tan and black with red accents on their ears, head and throughout their entire coat. They are social animals who live in small packs consisting of a mated pair that will stay together for life and their offspring of different years, typically being 5-8 animals. After a 60-63-day gestation period, the mother will give birth to 4-5 pups on average in April or May.
These wolves have a very shy and timid personality – tending to stay clear of human activities in the wild. The red wolf’s diet consists mostly of white-tailed deer, raccoons, rabbits and rodents. Since most prey items are small mammals, red wolves do not have to rely solely on pack hunting like the Mexican gray wolves do.
Today, they only live on a 1.7-million-acre refuge in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. By the 1960s, the red wolves’ habitat was continually being destroyed and with the presence of intense predator control programs that were killing them off, they were left on the brink of extinction. So, with hopes of creating a captive breeding program, more than 400 canids were caught near Texas and Louisiana, but of these 400 animals caught – only 17 were identified as pure red wolves.
In 1980, the red wolf was officially declared extinct in the wild and all hope to one day be able to release these wolves back into the wild was placed in the hands of the captive breeding program. That time came in 1987, when the captive breeding program proved to be a huge success and reintroduction began in North Carolina with the release of red wolves into the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.
The following year, the first litter of red wolf pups was born in the wild on this land and proved to be an important milestone in the recovery of this wolf. The red wolf continues to face problems, but in 2019 there were an estimated 25-35 wild red wolves living in North Carolina with around 240 living in captive facilities throughout the United States.
Fossil Rim has been a breeding facility for the Red Wolf SSP since 1989 and has produced 31 pups as of 2018. These wolves are housed in the Intensive Management Area and can be viewed on the Behind-the-Scenes Tour. A non-reproductive female red wolf lives beside the Children's Animal Center.
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As a private nonprofit corporation, Fossil Rim does not receive national or state government support. Every cent spent or donated here goes in some way, directly or indirectly, toward the care of our animals.