Published: Wednesday, July 15, 2015
The red wolf is one of the 10 most endangered mammals on the planet. This smaller relative of the grey wolf was hunted to the brink of extinction before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rounded up 17 pure red wolves to be bred in captivity in 1980.
As of 2007, approximately 207 captive red wolves reside at 38 captive breeding facilities across the United States, and around 100 are free roaming in North Carolina.
The late Thom Lewis, of St. George Island, designed and later oversaw the breeding program that brought the red wolf back from the brink of extinction.
The red wolf’s diet consists mainly of small mammals like rabbits and rodents. It is also known to eat insects, birds, berries and occasionally deer.
The main winter food of the wolves on St. Vincent Island during the winter is palmetto berries supplemented with dead fish scavenged along the shore.
Historically, red wolves ranged throughout the Southeast from Pennsylvania to Florida and as far west as Texas . Today, wild populations roam more than 1.7 million acres throughout northeastern North Carolina , including the Alligator River and Pocosin Lakes national wildlife refuges.
Wolves are primarily active at night. Shy and secretive, red wolves hunt alone or in small packs that generally include a mated pair. The size of the pack varies.
Pups are born in late winter. Dens are often located in hollow trees, stream banks and sand knolls.
When the wolves on St. Vincent Island failed to mate over several years, the original male was transferred to North Carolina and a new mate was provided for the adult female earlier this year.