Red wolves tend to form pair-bonds for life.
Once hunted to the brink of extinction, in 1980 fewer than 20 wolves were rounded up by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be bred in captivity. The wolves were officially declared extinct in the wild. By 1987, enough animals had been bred to begin a reintroduction program. Thanks to these programs, there are currently 50 to 80 red wolves in the wild.
Threats to the red wolf include habitat loss because of human development and illegal hunting.
It is estimated that red wolves live four years in the wild and up to 14 years in captivity.
Red wolves have several coat colors including black, brown, gray, and yellow. The reddish coats for which they are named was typical of some Texan populations.
As medium-sized canids, red wolves are smaller and more slender than their gray wolf cousins, but larger than coyotes. Adult males weigh 60 to 80 pounds. Females are smaller and weigh 40 to 60 pounds.
Red wolves prefer to live in forests, swamps and coastal prairies. Dens are often located in hollow trees, stream banks and sand knolls.
The red wolf's diet consists primarily of small mammals such as rabbits and rodents but also includes insects, berries and occasionally deer. Shy and secretive, red wolves hunt alone or in small family packs. The red wolf is primarily nocturnal (active at night).
Historically, red wolves ranged throughout the southeastern United States from Pennsylvania to Florida and as far west as Texas. Today, only a few wolves roam free in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and nearby Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.
Horn Island, a part of Gulf Islands National Seashore 8 miles off the mainland of Mississippi, is serving as a site for captive rearing of red wolves, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In 1991, red wolves were reintroduced into Great Smoky Mountains National Park but were relocated in 1998 due to insufficient food sources.