Canis rufus - Audubon and Bachman, 1851
Red Wolf
Other English Common Names: red wolf
Synonym(s): Canis lupus rufus ;Canis niger
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Canis lupus rufus Audubon and Bachman, 1851 (TSN 726841)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.106386
Element Code: AMAJA01020
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Mammals - Carnivores
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Mammalia Carnivora Canidae Canis
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
Check this box to expand all report sections:
Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (editors). 1993. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Second edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. xviii + 1206 pp. Available online at: http://www.nmnh.si.edu/msw/.
Concept Reference Code: B93WIL01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Canis rufus
Taxonomic Comments: Based on recent genetic studies, Wilson et al. (2000) concluded that the eastern timber wolf (Canis lupus lycaon) and the red wolf (Canis rufus) are sister taxa and are best considered to be conspecific. Additionally, Wilson et al. found that these two taxa form a North American lineage with the coyote (Canis latrans) that is distinct from that of the gray wolf (Canis lupus), which is Eurasian in origin. Wilson et al. (2000, 2003) proposed that the eastern timber wolf (Canis lycaon) be recognized as a species distinct from the gray wolf (C. lupus). In contrast, Nowak (2002) presented an analysis of cranial morphology of recent and Pleistocene Canis and concluded that Canis rufus is a valid species and that lycaon may be a hybrid between Canis rufus and western Canis lupus.

In a recent checklist of North American mammals, Baker et al. (2003) accepted C. lycaon and C. lupus as separate species as proposed by Wilson et al. (2000, 2003). Without explanation they retained the red wolf (Canis rufus) as a third North American wolf species. Wozencraft (in Wilson and Reeder 2005) recognized one Northern Hemisphere wolf species (Canis lupus) and listed rufus and lycaon as subspecies, noting that rufus appears to be a hybrid. In view of the unstable taxonomy of North American wolves and pending further information, this database retains the traditional arrangement of two wolf species in North America (C. lupus and C. rufus), with lycaon treated as a subspecies of C. lupus.

Genetic data (see Wayne and Jenks 1991, Wayne 1992, Wayne et al. 1998, Reich et al. 1999) indicate that existing populations of what have been called red wolves have no unique genetic characteristics and most likely are a product of hybridization between Canis lupus and C. latrans. Generally, however, the red wolf has been accepted as a valid species since the early 1970s (Paradiso and Nowak 1971). See Nowak (1992, 2002) for a response advocating that the red wolf is not a hybrid. Phillips and Henry (1992) reviewed various characters and concluded that Canis rufus is a valid species or at the very least a subspecies of Canis lupus. See also Dowling et al. (1992) for additional discussion of the taxonomic status of the red wolf.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G1Q
Global Status Last Reviewed: 02May2006
Global Status Last Changed: 25Jan2006
Rounded Global Status: G1 - Critically Imperiled
Reasons: Exterminated from formerly large range in the southeastern U.S.; now exists in one major population in northeastern North Carolina, plus a couple islands used for propagation; intensively monitored and managed; attempted reintroduction in Great Smoky Mountains National Park was unsuccessful.
Nation: United States
National Status: N1 (10Jun1996)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (SX), Arkansas (SX), Florida (SX), Georgia (SX), Illinois (SX), Indiana (SX), Kentucky (SX), Louisiana (SX), Mississippi (SX), Missouri (SX), North Carolina (S1), Oklahoma (SX), South Carolina (S1), Tennessee (SX), Texas (SX), Virginia (SX)

Other Statuses

U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): LE, XN: Listed endangered, nonessential experimental population (11Mar1967)
Comments on USESA: USFWS (2017) has announced their intention to gather information necessary to develop a proposed rule to revise the existing nonessential experimental population designation of red wolves in North Carolina.Listed by USFWS as Endangered except in portions of North Carolina and Tennessee, where nonessential experimental populations occur. A recent petition to delist the red wolf on the basis that it is a hybrid was rejected by USFWS (Federal Register, 9 December 1997).
IUCN Red List Category: CR - Critically endangered

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 5000-20,000 square km (about 2000-8000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Delineation of the range of this wolf is hampered by a paucity of specimens and debate over the taxonomic status of the species (seeNowak 2002). Data presented by Nowak (2002) indicate a range extending from Maine to Florida and eastward (south of the Great Lakes) to Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas, based on pre-1918 complete skulls (fragmentary archaeological and paleontological material dating back 10,000 years do not change this much). Basically, if the red wold is regarded as a valid species, its range historically was essentially confined to the southeastern United States.

Assuming the traditional view that the red wolf is a valid species and that it still exists in unhybridized form, the species was, until recent reintroductions, extinct in the wild since early 1980s (or mid-1970s, Rennie 1991). Formerly it was believed to have occurred from central Texas eastward to the coasts of Florida and Georgia and north to North Carolina, and along the Mississippi River Valley north to southern Illinois, and occasionally in Mexico. The last remnant population along Texas/Louisiana coast was rendered functionally extinct due to hybridization with coyote.

A reintroduced population now occurs in an area of roughly 6,900 square kilometers in northeastern North Carolina (reintroduction in Great Smoky Mountains National Park failed and has been terminated; Federal Register, 8 October 1998). Propagation populations currently exist on two islands: Bulls Island, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina; and St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. Other red wolves exist in many captive-breeding facilities.

Number of Occurrences: 1 - 5
Number of Occurrences Comments: This species occurs in the wild in one major location (plus two islands that serve as propagation areas).

Population Size: 1 - 250 individuals
Population Size Comments: As of 2005, there were about 100 red wolves in the wild on 6,900 square kilometers in northeastern North Carolina. The number of reproductive individuals probably is not greater than 50. The captive population included around 165 wolves.

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Historical decline was due to human persecution (trapping, poisoning), habitat loss, and hybridization with coyote. Attempted reintroduction in Great Smoky Mountians National Park failed, probably due to parovirus and other common canine diseases, internal and external parasites, poor nutrition caused by low food availability, and predation (Federal Register, 8 October 1998). Hybridization with coyotes is an ongoing threat in northeastern North Carolina.

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)
Short-term Trend Comments: USFWS (1990) categorized the status as "improving," but range has not expanded sigificantly beyond the reintroduction areas.

Long-term Trend: Decline of >90%
Long-term Trend Comments: Assuming an historical range throughout southeastern North America (e.g., Nowak 2002), the extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, and abundance of this species have undergone a drastic decline over the long term.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Protection Needs: Application of the experimental population designation has been useful in getting support for introductions as part of the recovery process (Parker and Phillips 1991).

See 1989 recovery plan.

Distribution
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Global Range: (5000-20,000 square km (about 2000-8000 square miles)) Delineation of the range of this wolf is hampered by a paucity of specimens and debate over the taxonomic status of the species (seeNowak 2002). Data presented by Nowak (2002) indicate a range extending from Maine to Florida and eastward (south of the Great Lakes) to Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas, based on pre-1918 complete skulls (fragmentary archaeological and paleontological material dating back 10,000 years do not change this much). Basically, if the red wold is regarded as a valid species, its range historically was essentially confined to the southeastern United States.

Assuming the traditional view that the red wolf is a valid species and that it still exists in unhybridized form, the species was, until recent reintroductions, extinct in the wild since early 1980s (or mid-1970s, Rennie 1991). Formerly it was believed to have occurred from central Texas eastward to the coasts of Florida and Georgia and north to North Carolina, and along the Mississippi River Valley north to southern Illinois, and occasionally in Mexico. The last remnant population along Texas/Louisiana coast was rendered functionally extinct due to hybridization with coyote.

A reintroduced population now occurs in an area of roughly 6,900 square kilometers in northeastern North Carolina (reintroduction in Great Smoky Mountains National Park failed and has been terminated; Federal Register, 8 October 1998). Propagation populations currently exist on two islands: Bulls Island, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina; and St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. Other red wolves exist in many captive-breeding facilities.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: endemic to a single nation

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States ALextirpated, ARextirpated, FLextirpated, GAextirpated, ILextirpated, INextirpated, KYextirpated, LAextirpated, MOextirpated, MSextirpated, NC, OKextirpated, SC, TNextirpated, TXextirpated, VAextirpated

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2005


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
LA Calcasieu (22019)*, Cameron (22023)*, East Carroll (22035)*, Grant (22043)*, La Salle (22059)*, Lafourche (22057)*, Madison (22065)*, Natchitoches (22069)*, Terrebonne (22109)*, Vermilion (22113)*, Winn (22127)*
NC Beaufort (37013), Bertie (37015), Carteret (37031), Chowan (37041), Craven (37049), Currituck (37053), Dare (37055), Hyde (37095), Martin (37117), Pamlico (37137), Pasquotank (37139), Perquimans (37143), Pitt (37147), Tyrrell (37177), Washington (37187)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 Lower Roanoke (03010107)+, Albemarle (03010205)+, Lower Tar (03020103)+, Pamlico (03020104)+, Pamlico Sound (03020105)+, Middle Neuse (03020202)+, Lower Neuse (03020204)+
08 Lower Mississippi-Greenville (08030100)+*, Castor (08040302)+*, Dugdemona (08040303)+*, Little (08040304)+*, Tensas (08050003)+*, Lower Mississippi-Natchez (08060100)+*, Mermentau (08080202)+*, Lower Calcasieu (08080206)+*, West Central Louisiana Coastal (08090302)+*
11 Lower Red-Lake Iatt (11140207)+*, Saline Bayou (11140208)+*
12 Lower Sabine (12010005)+*, Sabine Lake (12040201)+*
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Help
Basic Description: A wolf.
General Description: The dorsal pelage is mainly gray with interspersed blackish hairs and sometimes yellowish or reddish hairs, especially on the legs and underparts. Nose pad is more than 25 mm wide. Total length 136-165 cm (Whitaker 1996, Whitaker and Hamilton 1998).
Diagnostic Characteristics: Coyote is smaller (total length 105-132 cm), with a narrower nose pad and hind foot. Gray wolf tends to be larger (total length 137-206 cm). However, see taxonomy comments.
Reproduction Comments: Mates in January-February. Gestation lasts 60-63 days. Litter of 3-12 (average 6-7) is born in March-May. One litter per year. Sexually mature in 3 years.
Ecology Comments: More social than coyote but less so than gray wolf; typically travels and forages in small family groups or alone. Formerly density probably not more than 1 per 2 sq miles.
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Home ranges variously reported as 65 to 130 square kilometers (Riley and McBride 1975), 117 (males) and 78 square kilometers (females, Carley 1979); 100-200 sq km mentioned by Lowman 1975; varies with conditions.

Estuarine Habitat(s): Herbaceous wetland
Palustrine Habitat(s): FORESTED WETLAND, HERBACEOUS WETLAND, Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest - Conifer, Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed, Grassland/herbaceous, Shrubland/chaparral, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Special Habitat Factors: Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: Suitable habitat for this habitat generalist includes upland and lowland forests, shrublands, and coastal prairies and marshes; areas with heavy vegetative cover. Young are born in a den in a hollow log, in a burrow, or in similar secluded sites.
Adult Food Habits: Carnivore, Invertivore, Piscivore
Immature Food Habits: Carnivore, Invertivore, Piscivore
Food Comments: Opportunistic. Diet consists of a variety of invertebrates and vertebrates (rabbits, rodents, deer, birds, etc.). Particularly favors marsh rabbits (SYLVILAGUS AQUATICUS), nutria (MYOCASTOR COYPUS), and carrion. Not considered a threat to livestock (does not hunt in packs), but may prey on unattended young calves, pigs, and barnyard fowl (Matthews and Moseley 1990).
Adult Phenology: Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Nocturnal
Phenology Comments: Primarily nocturnal.
Length: 165 centimeters
Weight: 40900 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Management Requirements: See USFWS (Federal Register, 13 April 1995) for revision of the special rule for nonessential experimental populations in North Carolina and Tennessee.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
Help
Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals in appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Alternate Separation Procedure: Occurrences generally should be based on major occupied physiographic or ecogeographic units that are separated along areas of relatively low wolf density or use (e.g., major urban areas, very wide bodies of water, very sparsely used habitats) These units may be based on available wolf sightings/records or on movements of radio-tagged individuals, or they may be based on the subjective determinations by biologists familiar with wolves and their habitats.
Separation Justification: Wolves are highly mobile and readily disperse hundreds of kilometers; populations and metapopulations tend to encompass very large areas (Craighead 1976, Pearson 1975). Hence, meaningful wolf occurrences should represent large occupied landscape units, but these often will not be demographically isolated from other occurrences. Occurrence separations often must be arbitrary.
Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 11 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Based on a home range of 100 square kilometers (see Separation Justification).
Date: 29Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G., and S. Cannings
Population/Occurrence Viability
Help
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 05Apr2011
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 25May1995
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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Citation for data on website including State Distribution, Watershed, and Reptile Range maps:
NatureServe. 2018. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available http://explorer.natureserve.org. (Accessed:

Citation for Bird Range Maps of North America:
Ridgely, R.S., T.F. Allnutt, T. Brooks, D.K. McNicol, D.W. Mehlman, B.E. Young, and J.R. Zook. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Birds of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Bird Range Maps of North America:
"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE."

Citation for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
Patterson, B.D., G. Ceballos, W. Sechrest, M.F. Tognelli, T. Brooks, L. Luna, P. Ortega, I. Salazar, and B.E. Young. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Mammals of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Bruce Patterson, Wes Sechrest, Marcelo Tognelli, Gerardo Ceballos, The Nature Conservancy-Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International-CABS, World Wildlife Fund-US, and Environment Canada-WILDSPACE."

Citation for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe. 2004. Global Amphibian Assessment. IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe, Washington, DC and Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
"Data developed as part of the Global Amphibian Assessment and provided by IUCN-World Conservation Union, Conservation International and NatureServe."

NOTE: Full metadata for the Bird Range Maps of North America is available at:
http://www.natureserve.org/library/birdDistributionmapsmetadatav1.pdf.

Full metadata for the Mammal Range Maps of North America is available at:
http://www.natureserve.org/library/mammalsDistributionmetadatav1.pdf.

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