Red Wolf (Canis rufus)
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is the home to an eight-year-old female Red Wolf named Kawoni
And a male Red Wolf named Peanut.
Red wolves were brought to the brink of extinction in the wild due to hunting, trapping, poisoning and extreme competition with coyotes. With the help of zoos and the American Zoo and Aquarium Association’s Species Survival Plan (SSP), wild Red wolves were captured and bred in zoos. In 1987 a reintroduction program was started in North Carolina. Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo contributed eight wolf pups, bred right here in Bridgeport, to this reintroduction program.
Red Wolves are mostly brown and buff colored with some black along their backs, often with a reddish color on their ears, head and legs. The tip of the tail is usually black too.
They have pointy ears and broad muzzles, wide heads, and long slender legs.
Red Wolves grow up to 26 inches tall and adults average four feet in length from the tip of nose to the tip of the tail. Their weight ranges from 45 pounds to 85 pounds.
They have been known to travel up to 20 miles a day for food. They can reach speeds of up to 30 mph in short bursts when chasing prey.
Although they were once found from central Texas to southern Pennsylvania to Florida, today the only place Red wolves can be found in the wild is in eastern North Carolina's Albemarle Peninsula.
Dense mountain and bottomland forests, marshes, swamps, and coastal prairies.
Carnivore – They are generally solitary hunters of raccoons, and other small mammals like rabbits and mice. If hunting as a team they can bring down white-tailed deer or even cattle.
They can eat up to five pounds of food a day.
Red Wolves mate for life, and these pairs usually mate once a year, in February.
Pups are usually born in April or May and concealed in well-hidden dens.
Red Wolves form close-knit packs and are highly social. These packs, which usually consist of a breeding pair and their offspring of various years, contain between five and eight individuals.
The pack is a very close family unit. Older offspring will help the breeding male and female raise their younger siblings. Within one to three years, the younger wolves will leave the pack in search of their own mates and territory.
The average life span is 7 years in the wild and up to 15 years in human care.
Did You Know? Red Wolves and Coyotes are very closely related and share a recent common ancestor. The two species do hybridize and produce fertile offspring. It is usually impossible to distinguish between a Coyote – Red Wolf hybrid and a Red Wolf just by looking at it. Wildlife Biologists that work with the only known wild population of Red Wolves at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina perform DNA tests to be sure.
Red Wolves are a critically endangered species with only about 30 individuals existing in the wild in the world, all of them in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge area of North Carolina. Coyotes, although not found East of the Mississippi River prior to 1900, are now very common throughout the eastern United States.
Renewed Hope for the Red Wolf
The fate of Canis rufus has seesawed over the years from extinction to restoration; an unexpected genetic find may have tipped the balance in restoration's favor.
Click the button below to read the Zoo's Curator of Education Jim Knox's recent article for Natural History Magazine.