What’s the difference between red wolves and gray wolves?
At one point, people weren’t even sure if red wolves were their own species. Some thought they were a hybrid with coyotes. However, studies have proven that red wolves can be traced back to their own species over 10,000 years.
Red wolves are the cousin of the gray wolf. They are smaller than gray wolves and have had a much harder time with reintroduction into the wild.
Red wolves were declared extinct in the wild in 1980. What followed were recovery efforts with captive breeding programs and the creation of a “nonessential experimental population” in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.
By 2011, reintroduction was a success in this area. There were 89 known red wolves in the wild, with an estimated total of 130. This success paved the way for other reintroduction efforts with gray wolves and Mexican gray wolves.
Since then, red wolves have been declining rapidly. Currently, there are only 9 known wild red wolves within Northeastern North Carolina. No new pups were born in 2019 or in 2020.
What are the biggest threats?
The biggest threats to red wolves have been:
Humans – these interactions tend to end up with red wolves being killed
Coyotes – leads to fighting over resources and the introduction of diseases to the red wolves
Habitat loss – human development takes away land from these wolves and causes coyotes to move into their territory.
How can you help?
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