Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge
Southeast Region


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Red Wolf

  Endangered Red Wolf. Credit: William Mangun
  Red Wolf. Credit: William Mangun©

Red Wolves Howling:


Originally, the red wolf roamed as far north as Pennsylvania and as far west as central Texas. By the late 1930s, the population had drastically dwindled. At that time, only two populations are believed to have existed: one in the Ozark-Ouachita Mountain region of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri, and the other in southern Louisiana and southeastern Texas. Today, the only wild red wolf population is found in northeastern North Carolina in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge region.

The red wolf's name comes from the reddish coloring of the head, ears, and legs; its predominate coloring may range from very light tan to black. The wolf usually weighs between 45 to 80 pounds. Red wolves are smaller than the gray wolf but larger than the coyote.

In the wild, red wolves normally establish life-long mates. They reach breeding maturity in their second or third year. They usually mate in February or March of each year. The female wolf, sometimes assisted by the male, finds or digs a suitable den in places such as hollow logs, ditch banks, or under rocks. Typically, a litter of pups is born in April or May.

Red wolf packs are smaller than those of gray wolves: usually consisting of an adult pair and their off-spring. Unlike gray wolves, which hunt in packs to take large hoofed animals, red wolves will hunt alone, in pairs, or with the family pack.
Red wolf prey consists of small animals such as raccoons, rabbits, rodents and easily targeted white- tailed deer.

  Red wolf pups. Credit: Karen Beshears
  Red Wolf pups. Credit: Karen Beshears© 
Cape Romain’s Bulls Island has played an integral role in the recovery of the endangered red wolf. Due to its protected geographic location and prey base, Bulls Island was chosen as the experimental release site. In 1978, the 9-month successful release of two wolves, John and Judy, demonstrated the feasibility of reintroduction into the wild. Bulls Island became the first island breeding site in 1987. On April 23, 1988, two young males were born. In the following years, young pups would roam the island, learning basic survival skills before relocation into the wild at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina. On April 18, 2004 the last island litter of four, three females and one male, was born. Two weeks later, two females were moved to Alligator River NWR and placed in foster dens to be raised by wild females. In the early summer of 2005 the third female pup was relocated at Alligator River NWR and the young male was taken to Lincoln Zoo in Cincinnati, Ohio. The island breeding program closed in 2005. From 1987 to 2005, 26 pups were born at Bulls Island.

Red wolves are housed at the Sewee Center for observation & education. These captive wolves help to ensure the genetic diversity of the species.



Free software can be downloaded to hear the wolf sound recording.

Last updated: February 12, 2013
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