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Red Wolf Facts, Pictures - Information

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Redheads or coyotes (from the Latin Canis rufus) are predatory mammals, representatives of the canine family (also a subspecies of the gray wolf). Externally, red wolves are very similar to gray ones, only red wolves are slightly smaller than gray ones. Also, this species has a slimmer physique, longer legs and ears, but shorter fur. The body length of the red wolf is on average from 100 to 130 cm (not including the tail length of 30-40 cm), and the height is from 65 to 80 cm. The mass of adults can reach 20-40 kg.

The color of this species is not monophonic, the back of such wolves is usually black, the limbs and muzzle are reddish. The coat of red color is more often observed only in individuals belonging to the Texan population and in all others in the winter.

The lifestyle and hunting of red wolves is also small, which differs from the gray ones. Red wolves live in mountainous, wetlands or prairies. Geographically, this is the eastern part of the United States (Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina and Penselaniya). The packs of red wolves are slightly smaller in number than the packs of gray wolves, usually they consist of different generations of wolves, so there is absolutely no aggressive relationship between its members in packs.

The diet of red wolves includes not only food of animal origin, but also vegetable. Most often, the victims of this type of wolf among animals are: rodents, raccoons, rabbits, occasionally deer (red wolves hunt these animals only in packs). They also eat various berries and carrion. But the red wolves themselves can become the prey of alligators and red lynxes.

The breeding season of red wolves begins in January and lasts until March. Pairs of red wolves, like other species, are created for a very long time. Females bring from 3 to 6 cubs, very rarely up to 12. Cubs live with their parents in the lairs, arranged under fallen trees, along river banks in sandy slopes. Both parents take an active role in the development of their offspring. Already in the sixth month of life, the wolf cubs become completely independent. In nature, red wolves live on average 4 years, in captivity - up to 14 years.

Red wolves are the rarest of all types of wolves, they are listed in the International Red Book as a species that is in critical danger.
In total, there were three species (two of which became extinct) of red wolves: Canis rufus floridanus, Canis rufus rufus and Canis rufus gregoryi. Back in 1967, the species of red wolves was declared endangered. There are several reasons for this situation: red wolves were actively exterminated for attacks on domestic animals, the habitat was also gradually being destroyed, and hybridization of red wolves with coyotes began. To date, the population of red wolves is only 270 individuals (which have been restored from 14 individuals) and they all live only in North Carolina.

Meet The Red Wolf: Introduction

When is a species not a species?

The red wolf has its own scientific name (Canis rufus) and is considered by some to be the United States ’third canid (dog) species, alongside the gray wolf and the coyote.

However, the red wolf’s status as a distinct species is controversial. Many scientists consider the red wolf to be either a gray wolf / coyote hybrid, or a subspecies of gray wolf.

(A hybrid is the offspring between two different, but very closely related species, such as a wolf and a coyote, or a horse and a donkey).

Another theory suggests that the red wolf is in fact an eastern wolf, another disputed species. (The eastern wolf is usually considered to be a gray wolf subspecies.)

The red wolf is listed as a subspecies of gray wolf in the Catalog of Life, a global database of species. The red wolf is also listed as being a subspecies of gray wolf in Mammal Species of the World, a respected reference work.

Although the IUCN currently lists the red wolf as a separate species, it notes that the classification is provisional.

There are only around 40 red wolves left in the wild. Another 200 are kept in captivity.

How To Recognize A Red Wolf

The red wolf gets its name from the cinnamon / red-gray color of its neck, flanks and legs. It is midway between the gray wolf and the coyote in size, weighing from 20 to 36 kg (45 to 80 lb.) There is some overlap in the size of large red wolves and small gray wolves.

The ruff of the red wolf is less prominent than that of other wolves, and the ears proportionally longer. The legs are long and slender, giving the red wolf a slightly ‘grayhound-like’ appearance.

Red wolves are long-legged, slender animals.

Where Is The Red Wolf Found?

In the past, the red wolf was found in the southeastern United States, from southern Florida westward to Central Texas. The species ’historical range may have extended as far northwards as Pennsylvania and even to southern Canada.

Today the red wolf is only found on the on the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula in eastern North Carolina. The 40 or so wolves found in this area represent all that remains of re-introduction efforts begun in the 1980’s. (See the Red Wolf Reintroductions section, below)

Red wolf habitat

The historical range of the red wolf includes many different types of habitat. The species is most commonly associated with the forests, swamps and coastal prairie marshes of the southeastern United States.

Unlike coyotes, wolves do not tolerate the presence of humans. Coyotes may be seen near, or even in, suburban areas. By contrast wolves are strictly animals of the wilderness.

In order to sustain a wolf population, a habitat must also be able to sustain an adequate amount of suitable prey.

Red wolf diet

The red wolf’s diet consists mainly of small to mid-size mammals such as rabbits, rodents and deer.

The wolf adjusts its hunting style according to the size of its prey. Small animals are pounced on. Mid-sized species may be suffocated with bites to the throat. Larger prey animals are overcome by wounds received from bites delivered during a chase.

Species targeted by the red wolf include white-tailed deer, raccoons and nutria. (Also known as the coypu, the nutria is a non-native species introduced from South America).

Red wolf family life

Mating takes place in February, with the pups being born in April and May. Red wolves mate for life. Females give birth in well-hidden dens. These may be located in hollow tree trunks, spaces between rocks, holes in riverbanks or similar secure areas. An average litter consists of 6 to 7 young.

Bringing up the cubs is a family affair. Both parents take part in the rearing of the young. Mature offspring from earlier years who are still present in the family group may also assist in rearing their siblings.

The survival rate for red wolf pups is low, with under 50% reaching adulthood.

Red wolf reintroductions

The red wolf is one of the world’s most endangered animals, with only around 40 individuals left in the wild and a further 200 individuals living in captivity.

The wild red wolf population of today represents all that remains of a 1980’s re-introduction program.

In 1967 the decline of the wild red wolf population led to the species being listed as endangered in the U.S. under the Endangered Species Preservation Act. (The IUCN listed the red wolf as Critically Endangered in 1996.)

In order to protect the species, a captive breeding program was established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Of the 79 wolves taken from the wild as part of the program, only 14 were found to be ‘pure’ red wolves, the others were either gray wolves, coyotes, or gray wolf / coyote hybrids.

In 1977 the breeding program began to bear fruit, with a litter of red wolves being born in captivity. By 1988 the 14 captive red wolves had produced 80 young.

In 1980 the red wolf was declared extinct in the wild. The future of the species now lay with the breeding program.

In 1986 a colony measuring red wolves from the breeding program was established in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina. In 1988 this ‘nonessential experimental population’, or NEP, produced its first litter.

A separate re-introduction program was begun in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1992. Two breeding pairs were introduced and in the following year the population had produced a litter of pups.

However, over the following years the Smoky Mountains population struggled to sustain itself due to a shortage of potential prey. In 1998 the project was ended.

By 2006, the Alligator River population had reached its peak, numbering around 120 to 130 wolves. Sadly, since then the population has declined to around 40 animals in 2018.

The importance of correct classification

Studies carried out after the captive breeding program had begun found that even the 14 red wolves from which the entire re-introduced population was founded were genetically the same as Louisiana coyotes.

These findings suggest that the red wolf may have been bred out of existence before the 20 th century, that’s if it had ever existed as a separate, non-hybrid species at all.

The red wolf’s uncertain classification status affects potential conservation efforts. Neither the gray wolf nor the coyote are themselves endangered (despite huge reductions in the gray wolf’s range in the U.S., its global population is relatively healthy).

If the red wolf is considered either to be a subspecies of gray wolf or a gray wolf / coyote hybrid, then its conservation is less likely to be given priority than if it were a separate species.

Re: Red Wolf (Canis rufus)

And how can this be understood, if there is strictly scientific evidence (DNA research, etc.), this is one thing,
if this is a private opinion of some zoologist, not confirmed by anything (even with a name), but without any evidence (like Oparin’s hypothesis), this is completely different. The first is preferable.

# 27 03 September 2010 18:56:46

Re: Red Wolf (Canis rufus)

DNA data but they were already taken from modern animals. Perhaps earlier the red wolves were extinct.

Molecular evolution of the dog family by ROBERT K. WAYNE:

If the red wolf were a distinct species ancestral to wolves and coyotes37, there should be unique mtDNA genotypes that define a separate species clade15, a pattern previously found in wolf-like canids13-16 (Fig. 4).

However, captive red wolves had a genotype that was indistinguishable by restriction site analysis from those found in coyotes from Louisiana. Because hybridization was thought to occur between the two species as the red wolf became rare, the presence of the coyote-derived genotypes in captive red wolves could represent an accident of sampling and not be representative of the ancestral population. Subsequently, an additional mtDNA analysis of 77 samples obtained in about 1975 from areas inhabited by the last wild red wolves showed that all had either a coyote or gray wolf genotype15.

Conceivably hybridization between gray wolves and coyotes alone could explain the intermediate morphology of red wolves. To test this hypothesis, DNA was isolated from six museum skins of red wolves obtained from Five states in about 1910, a time before hybridization of red wolves and coyotes was thought to be common. Phylogenetic analysis of 398 bp of the cytochrome b gene showed that red wolves at that time did not have a distinct genotype, all six had genotypes classified with gray wolves or coyotes, a result consistent with a hybrid origin for the species15 (Fig. 4).

A serious argument in support of the view that the red wolf is a hybrid of a coyote and a wolf.

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