(Scene: hiker spots something in the woods at Alligator National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina)
“What was that? It looked like a wolf! Must have been a coyote… Wolves aren’t found in this part of the country, right?”
Oh, but they are!
The endangered red wolf (cousin to the gray wolf out West) roams the wilds of northeastern North Carolina. Historically, red wolves ranged throughout the southeastern U.S. from Pennsylvania to Florida and as far west as Texas. But by 1980, the red wolf was virtually extinct in the wild because of habitat destruction and extermination. Now, thanks to captive breeding programs and reintroduction to a restoration area in North Carolina, red wolves number over one hundred.
Red wolves look like delicate versions of gray wolves, except with longer muzzles, larger ears, and fur tinged reddish brown in some spots. Like grays, they live in packs and are most active at night – that’s when they howl. The Alligator River NWR actually offers ‘howling safaris’, where you can visit the refuge at night and experience the thrill of hearing red wolves communicating with each other.
What Defenders Is Doing
Red wolves resemble coyotes, which unfortunately leads to many mistaken identity deaths caused by humans. To reduce the confusion, Defenders partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Red Wolf Recovery Team and the Red Wolf Coalition to produce a red wolf education guide for hunters.
Defenders is exploring the economic and environmental benefits of red wolves, in order to inform policy makers and landowners. Our latest report discusses the receptivity of landowners towards payment in exchange for conservation practices.
Click here to read more about the red wolf.
Watch a video of the red wolf courtesy of USFWS.