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Red Wolf

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The Red Wolf, Canis rufus (Audubon and Bachman), is a rather small, slender, long-legged wolf resembling the coyote in color but often blackish; typically larger, with wider nose pad, larger feet and coarser pelage; smaller and more tawny than the gray wolf. Dental formula as in the coyote.  External measurements of an adult male: total length, 1,473 mm; tail, 362 mm; hind foot, 235 mm; a female, 1,448-355-216 mm. Large males weigh 30-40 kg; large females 20-30 kg.

Distribution in Texas
Formerly, red wolves ranged throughout the eastern half of Texas but their numbers and range quickly declined under pressure of intensive land use in the region.  Also, early lumbering and farming practices allowed the coyote to expand its range into East Texas; hybrid offspring of interbreeding red wolves and coyotes more closely resembled coyotes and the genetic identity of the red wolf was gradually suppressed.

In 1962 Howard McCarley, who had assiduously searched for them in East Texas for several years, held the opinion that they no longer occurred there.  John Paradiso reported in 1965, however, that seven specimens taken near Anahuac (Chambers County) in 1963-1964, and one specimen from Armstrong (Kenedy County) taken in 1961, were definitely red wolves.  All of the recent, so-called red wolves we have examined from eastern Texas have proven to be large coyotes. It appears that in Texas, red wolves are now extinct.  The Red Wolf is the rarest wolf and is on of the most endangered animals in the world. 

Red wolves inhabited brushy and forested areas, as well as the coastal prairies.  They are more sociable than coyotes.  Three or more may maintain a group structure throughout the year.  Riley and McBride, on the basis of systematic tracking, estimated that the home range is approximately 40-80 km², averaging 56 km².

They are known to feed on cottontails and other rabbits, deer, native rats and mice, prairie chickens, fish and crabs (along the Gulf Coast), as well as upon domestic livestock, especially free-ranging pigs.  Riley and McBride list nutria (which they consider an important buffer between red wolves and domestic livestock), swamp rabbit, cottontail, rice rat, cotton rat, and muskrat as specific food items.

Breeding occurs in January and February, and the three or four pups are born in March and April.  The nursery den normally is dug in the slope or crest of a low, sandy mound or hill, or in the bank of an irrigation or drainage ditch.  Man-made culverts and drain pipes occasionally are utilized.  The dens average about 2.4 m in length and normally are no deeper than 1 m.  Den entrances vary from 60 to 75 cm in diameter and normally are well-concealed.  Both sexes take part in rearing the young. Frequently, young of the previous year occur in the vicinity of a nursery den, but they do not appear to participate in guarding, feeding, or training of the pups of the year. When about 6 weeks old the pups may forsake the nursery den.

The red wolf was apparently extinct in the wild by 1980.  However, captive breeding colonies of red wolves have been established at several locations throughout the country.  Beginning in 1987, red wolves were re-introduced to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (ARNWR), located on an island off the coast of North Carolina. Between 1987 and 1992, 42 wolves were released in ARNWR and at least 23 wolves were born in the wild.  As of August 1992, the ARNWR population numbered at least 24 wolves.  Additionally, red wolf pairs have been released on Bull’s Island, South Carolina, St. Vincent Island, Florida, and Horn Island, Mississippi, but breeding and survival on these islands have been limited.  Most recently, red wolves have been re-introduced to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It is doubtful red wolves can be re-introduced in Texas because of human population pressures where they formerly occurred.  It is important to conserve predators to protect ecosystems.



Author:Paleo Comment Left:04/06/2007 19:14
There was talk a few years back about reintroduction in the Big Thicket area, I guess it was just talk. Seems there should be room for all of us.
Author:bd13fishing Comment Left:04/07/2007 11:43
Great photo
Author:bluesdaddy1969 Comment Left:05/04/2010 10:46

Hi Im an environmental inspector for oil and gas pipelines , on the morning of may 4 2010 on my way to location at big marsh island south of vidor tx south of 105 I seen what I believed to be a red wolf crossing our acces road about 100 feet in front of my truck with a rabbit in its mouth . It was about 70 lbs ,just above knee high . Anyone interested in exact location contact me