Intermediate in size between the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) and the Coyote (Canis latrans), Red Wolves look something like large Coyotes. They are distinctly long-legged and “square.”
Historical – Red Wolves originally occupied eastern North America, from the Gulf Coast into southern Ontario, Canada. Current – Extinct in the wild in 1980, Red Wolves are now in a captive breeding-and-release program. The primary wild release area is eastern North Carolina, on the peninsula between the Albermarle and Pamilico Sounds. Low human density, wetland soil type and distance from roads seem to be the most important habitat features.
- Wild – Rabbits, squirrels, fawns, birds and eggs, plus insects and reptiles as available.
- Zoo – Canine Maintenance, with frozen feline; fasted weekly; bone or muscle meat weekly.
Red Wolves are cinnamon or tawny, with black-tipped guard hairs. The ears are usually red and the tail-tip black. The summer coat is more reddish than the dense winter coat. In all seasons, the “eyebrows” are cream, plus cream, usually, along the lips.
Red Wolves seldom form large packs. Mother and pups hunt together, the father hunting with his mate when the pups are young. Unlike Gray Wolves, they are much less likely to pursue adult deer. Red Wolves seldom howl. When they do, it is often more reminiscent of coyote chortling. The young, especially, do a lot of singing and chortling. Red Wolves are nocturnal, but this may be due more to human pressure than to historic life history.
Red Wolves have long thin legs, typical of cursorial [running] hunters, and they, consequently, appear “square” – as tall as they are long, chest to rear. Hearing and vision are keen, necessary for being nocturnal predators, and the sense of smell is excellent.
There is a definite change in coat, summer being short and coarse, almost slick-coated, and winter being double and soft. This is termed acclimation (or acclimatization), an adaptation to changing seasons. Acclimation of any sort IS an adaptation. Something cannot become adapted, it either is or it is not adapted – at birth.
Breeding & Growth
Red Wolves mate for life. Gestation, as in all of genus Canis, is about 62 days. Usually 4 altricial pups are born, the eyes opening after about 2 weeks. Pups begin to take partially digested food at about 3 weeks, regurgitated by both parents. They begin joining the hunt at about 5 months, just after their deciduous canines drop out and the permanent ones begin to come in. They disperse before the next litter is born and are mature in 2 to 3 years. Longevity is less than 10 years in wild, considerably longer in captivity.
- Lifespan 6-7 years in the wild and up to 15 years in captivity.
- Length 4.5-5.5 feet long (including the tail).
- Height About 26 inches at the shoulders.
- Weight 50-80 pounds.
- Status Critically endangered.