Once common throughout the southeast as far as Texas, Red Wolf (Canis rufus) populations were decimated by the 1960s. Twenty years later the Red Wolf was extinct in the wild. In 1973, 14 remaining purebred wolves were captured and placed in captive breeding programs. By 1987, enough Red Wolves were bred in captivity and a reintroduction program began. Since then the Red Wolf recovery area has expanded and now comprises one million acres, including three national wildlife refuges, a Department of Defense bombing range, other public lands and private property. Interbreeding with the coyote (an exotic species in North Carolina) has been recognized as the most significant and detrimental issue affecting the recovery of Red Wolves in their native habitat. Currently, adaptive management efforts are making progress in reducing the threat of interbreeding.
Currently there are:
- 160 Red Wolves in captive breeding facilities around the country and 13 at two island propagation sites.
- about 100 Red Wolves in the wild in northeastern North Carolina and all but two have been born in the wild.
- 9 confirmed Red Wolf litters with 40 pups born in the recovery area; at least 281 pups have been born in the wild over four generations since the program's interception.
Source: Timber Wolf Alliance News / October 2002