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Albemarle- Pamlico Environmental Education  Activity Kit

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 Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?

Activity Description:  To learn how to separate fact from fiction about red wolves.


Age Group:  Grades 4 - 6



When Sir Walter Raleigh s expedition first landed ashore on Roanoke Island near Manteo, North Carolina in 1584, the white man's battle against wolves in the New World began. Over 400 years of negative thinking and persecution against red wolves in the South and gray wolves in the North has nearly eliminated these impressive animals from the landscape! Today, through a unique twist of fate, red wolves are being restored to their native range in the very same place where man began to conquer this
part of the new world.
Illustration of two red wolves

Many visitors to the Outer Banks of North Carolina don t realize that wild red wolves are roaming the woods and swamps only
a few miles away from their beach site activities. This statement is really not as frightening as it may sound. These wary (shy) and seldom seen animals are part of a carefully controlled scientific project to determine if this nearly extinct member of the Canidae (dog)  Family can be successfully reintroduced into the wild at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in Dare County, North Carolina.

The red wolf is one of three wild canids native to the United States. It inhabited the southeast part of the country before it was eliminated from most of its range, while the gray or timber wolf lived in much of the northern U.S. before its population decline. The coyote, which is abundant and has been moving east in recent years, originally occupied the western two-thirds of the U.S. When compared with the other two species, the red wolf is typically larger than the coyote but smaller than the gray wolf. It is usually cinnamon to gray in color and may weigh 40 to 80 pounds.

Along with the Florida panther and black-footed ferret, the red wolf is one of the most endangered species of animal in North America! Due to this designation, it is protected by The Endangered Species Act of the Federal Government which makes harming these animals or jeopardizing their habitat a serious offense.

Illustration of red wolf with dinner after a hunt
Like all canids, the red wolf is a predator or animal that kills and eats other animals for food. It usually feeds on a wide variety of animals and birds that reproducerapidly. Marsh rabbits, muskrat, and nutria are some of its favorite foods. Whatever they eat, however, wolves maintain a balance in the environment by controlling the populations of prey animals. If prey animals were allowed to increase without control, they would eat the vegetation in the environment until there was very little remaining. Eventually, the small prey animals would starve or possibly die from an outbreak of disease. For many years, man did not realize the value of having large predators in the environment. Wolves were regarded as vermin and were shot on sight. Even in our childhood, stories such as "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Beauty AndTheBeast" depict wolves as villains that chase and threaten the central characters of the story. These wolves are "big and bad" like the myths of old. Today, the value of these animals is understood and appreciated by many more people. Some of the negative folk lore and fear of wolves is diminishing, making red wolf restoration in eastern North Carolina possible.

Lore Facts
a) Red Wolves may attack small children or people. h) Shy is an adjective used for man. Red Wolves are wary, that is, they are afraid of and try to avoid man.
b) Red Wolves will howl back at humans. i) Red Wolves will answer even poor imitations of their howls if they are 1/4 to 1/2 mile away.
c) Wolves howl more at full moons. j) Healthy Red Wolves do not see humans as prey.
d) Red Wolves are loners. k) Biologists are not sure if Red Wolves mate for life. They expect that some do and some don't.
e) Red Wolves are very shy. l) Wolves are very social and prefer to live in packs or family groups.
f) Red Wolves eat fast-as the expression "wolfing it down" implies. m) Wolves may howl more during a full moon, but this fact has not been documented.
g) Red Wolves mate for life. n)  Red Wolves do eat large chunks of food quickly. A male Red Wolf in North Carolina died from choking to death on a raccoon kidney!


Key: a-j, b-i, c-rn, d-l, e-h, f-n, g-k.

Illustrations by Sandra Koch

For additional information regarding this Web page, contact Doug Newcomb, in Raleigh, NC, at doug_newcomb@fws.gov

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