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The red wolf (Canis rufus) or red wolf is a native North American canid of intermediate size between the coyote (Canis latrans) and the grey wolf (Canis lupus). The red wolf is mainly brown and buff-colored with some black on its back, often with a reddish color on its ears, head, and legs. Adult red wolves range in weight from 18 to 36 kilograms. Red wolves have a large head with a broad snout, large pointed ears, and long, slender legs with large feet. They are about 65 cm high and about 1.5 m long from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail.
2) WHY IS THE RED WOLF ENDANGERED?
The red wolf is one of the most endangered wolves in the world. Once common in the eastern and south-central United States, red wolf populations were decimated at the beginning of the 20th century due to intensive predator control programs and habitat degradation by humans. When the red wolf was designated endangered in 1967, the U.S. Wildlife Service initiated efforts to conserve and recover the species. Today, approximately 40 red wolves roam their native habitats in eastern North Carolina as a non-essential experimental population (NEP), and more than 200 red wolves are maintained in captive breeding facilities throughout the United States.
The last red wolves were found in coastal meadows and marshes because this is the last area where animals were allowed to stay. Any area of habitat in the southeastern United States of sufficient size, which provides food and water, is a suitable habitat for the red wolf. Telemetric studies indicate that the home range requirements of the red wolf range from approximately 65 to 130 square kilometers.
Although the exact diet of red wolves varies depending on the prey available, it generally consists of a combination of white-tailed deer, raccoons and small mammals such as rabbits, rodents and nutrients. The red wolf is an opportunistic eater and can travel up to 32 km per day or more to find food, which can be consumed at a rate of 1 to 2.5 kg per day.
5) BEHAVIOUR OF THE RUFOUS CANIS
The red wolf is a social animal that lives in packs. Typical packs consist of five to eight animals, including a pair of breeding adults and their offspring of different years. The older offspring will often help the breeding couple raise their young. Almost all of the one- to two-year-old offspring leave the pack or “disperse” to form their own pack.
Red wolves tend to form pairs for life and mate once a year in February. Puppies are usually born in April or May in well-hidden dens that may be located in hollow trees, stream banks, and sand mounds. Dens have also been found in holes dug in the ground near felled tree trunks or piles of forest debris. Less than half of the wolf pups born in the wild survive to adulthood. Survival rates are affected by disease, malnutrition and predation.
Wolf packs have specific territories that they actively defend against other canids, including other wolves. More active at dusk and dawn, red wolves are elusive and generally avoid humans and human activities.
6) THREATS TO THE RED WOLF
Human-caused mortality (e.g., vehicle collisions, gunfire) can eliminate breeding stock from the wild red wolf population. These threats, combined with habitat fragmentation due to increasing development, allow coyotes to spread throughout the NEP area. Coyotes can compete directly with wolves for resources, introduce diseases, and dilute wolf genetic lines through hybridization. This is particularly true when a pack has lost one of the adults of the breeding pair as the breeding season approaches.