THE RED WOLF - Origin, Food, Reproduction and Conservation

The red wolf: find out what this animal is like, its physical characteristics, character, behavior, etc. The red wolf is an animal of controversial origin and recognition,...

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The red wolf is an animal of controversial origin and recognition, on which various and contrary positions have been raised, such as the fact that it is a subspecies of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) or whether it is a different species to which the scientific name of Canis rufus has been attributed. Since this last option is the one recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the one that also appears in the Comparative Taxogenomics Database (CDT), we will speak of this wolf as a different species. and not as a subspecies of the red wolf, since, also, different subspecies are suggested in some cases.

In this article from Planète Animal, you will discover all the characteristics of the red wolf, its habitat, its customs and much more. Read on to learn everything there is to know about this canine!


  • America
  • United States

Red Wolf Features

The red wolf is closely related to the wolf species Canis lupus, although the former is smaller in size. These wolves usually have dimensions between 1 and 1.3 meters long, with tails of 30 to 50 cm and a height of 60 to almost 80 cm. Males are slightly larger than females. The weight varies between 20 to 40 kg. On the other hand, they have long legs and ears, the latter are also pointed.

It's a beautiful animal, with distinctive colors and short fur. The upper part of the body is a mixture of beige, ocher, gray or black colors, but the kidney or back area is often darker.Around and under the muzzle to the chest there is a white pattern, while the tail is colored with a tendency towards black. In summer, we observe a shedding of the coat and in winter, it tends more towards a reddish coloration.

Subspecies of the Red Wolf

The red wolf, as we mentioned at the beginning of this article, has been a controversial animal from a taxonomic point of view, since it has been suggested, on the one hand, that it was of a subspecies of the gray wolf, on the other hand, that it corresponded to a subspecies of coyote, and even the idea of being a hybrid between wolves and coyotes has been suggested. However, all these positions, due to genetic studies, have not been accepted and its identity as a separate species has been established so far.

Something similar happened with the proposed existence of subspecies of the red wolf, because there are reports[1][2]which concern three specific subspecies and which are as follows:

  • Canis rufus floridanus
  • Canis rufus gregoryi
  • Canis rufus rufus

This same report cites others[3][4] which indicate that the first two subspecies mentioned are extinct. Nevertheless, in other studies used for writing this report, the existence of subspecies is not indicated and some even explicitly mention that the red wolf has no subspecies. For all these reasons, the taxonomy of the red wolf is not entirely clear at this time.

Red Wolf Habitat

Initially, the red wolf was believed to be restricted only to the southeastern United States, but later it was discovered that it was also distributed northward, even reaching the tip east of Canada. Regarding the type of habitat of the species, there is not enough information, according to the IUCN, because, when research on it was started, the population had decreased considerably.

They are believed to have developed in a variety of habitat types. The habitat used by the last population in the wild was prairie swamps located in specific areas of Louisiana and Texas. However, it is agreed that the largest population lived in large riparian forests and wetlands. In this sense, the red wolf shows an ability to adapt to different types of habitat as well as an ability to thrive in various types of ecosystems.

The only wild population of the red wolf is a reintroduced population that inhabits farmland and forest mosaics with a pine and coniferous understory in North Carolina.

Red Wolf Feeding

This species of wolf, the red wolf, is a carnivorous animal, just like the rest of the canines. It tends to hunt in the same area for about 7-10 days and then change areas thereafter.However, you will wonder: what exactly does the red wolf eat? Among their favorite prey are the following:

  • Rodents
  • Raccoons
  • Deer
  • Rabbits
  • Pigs
  • Rats
  • Birds
  • Otters

It is also common for them to include carrion in their diet. This wolf may also include certain types of fruit in the red wolf's diet, although its primary food source is animal.

If you want to know more, don't miss this other article where we tell you How wolves hunt.

Red Wolf Habits

It is a mainly nocturnal animal, which usually lives in packs and establishes a territory as their home, where they develop exclusively, so they do not allow the presence of other groups of the species.In general, the pack is founded by a couple of wolves, making them the alphas, and consists of their descendants. However, larger packs can sometimes be formed. Within the pack, these wolves tend to live peacefully, but not in the presence of a stranger, with whom they clash, which is a common trait of canines.

These wolves establish a complex communication system between themselves, based on chemical signals, behavioral and tactile aspects, and the emission of various types of sounds. They also tend to mark out their territory with scent signals.

Reproduction of the red wolf

Reproduction in the red wolf is very similar to that of other wolf species. They have a hierarchical role, which is represented by the founding couple of the pack and which is called alpha. It is the only one who has the privilege of reproducing, the other individuals of childbearing age must withdraw from the group and form their own family to have descendants.

The red wolf breeds between January and March, with a gestation period that lasts 60 to 63 days and a number of young between 3 and 6, which are born in the spring, although there are cases from females giving birth to about 12 cubs. Prior to giving birth, the female locates a burrow, which may be a hollow log, sand accumulations, or near a local stream, to give birth and raise her young.

All members of a Red Wolf Pack participate in the care and protection of Cubs. So they even help bring food for the little ones and watch them for at least the first year of life.

In the wild, the red wolf usually lives for around 4 years, as it is very rare for it to die from natural causes. However, in captivity, their life expectancy increases considerably, reaching up to 15 years.

State of conservation of the red wolf

Due to conflicts with animal breeders, red wolves have all but disappeared from their range. However, a program to release them into the wild has been developed and a group of these animals have been captured and then reintroduced to a specific region, where their viability can be monitored.

Currently, the red wolf is considered critically endangered by the IUCN. Among the threats, in addition to direct hunting, which is prohibited in the United States, hybridization with coyotes is an aspect that considerably harms the stability of the species, since it can make it disappear, and this is the one of the consequences that occur in some cases of hybridization.

Discover all types of wolves and their characteristics to deepen your knowledge; discover how wonderful these animals are and realize the importance of protecting them.

Pictures of The Red Wolf

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