National Wildlife Refuge System

2013 Red Wolf Pup Count Down Slightly

The final red wolf pup count for 2013 is down from previous years.
Credit: USFWS
This red wolf is ready to be released at Alligator River Refuge, NC.
Credit: R. Nordsven/USFWS

Fewer red wolf pups were born this year, but overall there is progress in bringing back this endangered species.   About 100 red wolves now roam their native habitats in five northeastern North Carolina counties.


The final red wolf pup count for the 2013 whelping season shows 34 pups in seven litters in the restored red wolf population in eastern North Carolina – down slightly from previous years. Reasons for the decline are not apparent.


The Red Wolf Recovery Program at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge also reported 23 pups from four litters born in zoos and nature centers participating in the Species Survival Plan captive breeding program.  In addition, as part of the effort to increase the genetic diversity of the wild population, a captive-born pup was fostered into a wild-born litter to be raised as a wild wolf. 


Once common throughout the southeast, red wolf populations were decimated by the 1960s due to intensive predator control and loss of habitat.  Red wolves were declared an endangered species in 1967. Fourteen wild red wolves were captured to start a captive breeding program.

By 1987, enough red wolves were bred in captivity to begin a restoration program on Alligator River Refuge.  Since then, the experimental population area has expanded to include three national wildlife refuges, a Department of Defense bombing range, state-owned lands and private property spanning 1.7 million acres.  


Red wolves are social animals, living in packs, typically five to eight animals, which include a breeding pair and their offspring of different years. Red wolves prey on a variety of wild mammals such as raccoon, rabbit, white-tailed deer, and nutria and other rodents.  Most active at dusk and dawn, red wolves are elusive and generally avoid humans and human activity.


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Last updated: June 24, 2013