The Red Wolf (Canis rufus)

IMAGE SOURCE Captive female red wolf at Sandy Ridge. Photo source: R. Nordsven/USFWS.

All information via The Red Wolf Coalition

Red Wolf (Canis lupus rufus, Canis rufus)  – (Audubon and Bachman)
Gregory’s Wolf (Canis rufus gregoryi) – (Goldman 1937)

Common Names:
Red Wolf, Gregory’s Wolf, Mississippi Valley Wolf, Black Wolf

Overall population:[45-60, 1 mortality in 2016]

Physical description:
In size, the red wolf on average is in between Canis lupus (grey wolf) and Canis latrans (coyote), with its length ranging from 54.3 inches to 64.9 inches. Weights of red wolves range from, in males, 45-90lbs., and in females, 36-65lbs. The morphology of the red wolf has been described as having “spindly” long legs, slender body, and ears that are proportionately larger in relation to the head than in lupus and latrans.[1]
“As their name suggests, red wolves are known for the characteristic reddish color of their fur most apparent behind the ears and along the neck and legs, but are mostly brown and buff colored with some black along their backs.” [2]

[1] Paradiso, J. L.; Nowak, R. M. (1972). “Canis rufus” (PDF). Mammalian Species. 22 (22): 1–4. doi:10.2307/3503948. JSTOR 3503948.
[2] “Red wolf (Canis rufus)”. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Environmental Conservation Online System.

Original range -Red wolves formerly ranged throughout the southeastern USA, from the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, north to the Ohio River Valley and central Pennsylvania, and west to central Texas and southeastern Missouri. Zoologist Ronald Nowak believes red wolves historically occurred as far north as Maine in the northeastern USA.

Nowak, R. (2002) The Original Status of Wolves in Eastern North America. Southeastern Naturalist, 1(2): 95 – 130.

Current range – The national wildlife refuges and adjacent private property in the 1.7-million acre restoration area in northeastern North Carolina.

Habitat / Ecology: mixed forests, wetlands, agricultural lands and coastal prairies

Unique behaviors:

Legal and Cultural Background:

Status: Endangered-Experimental/Non-essential in the five-county recovery region in northeastern North Carolina. Endangered elsewhere if found. Captive population is listed as endangered.


Taxonomic/Genetic Information:


Further Reading

Journal / Scientific Publications:


Ultrasonographic characteristics of the reproductive tract and serum progesterone and estradiol concentrations in captive female red wolves (Canis rufus) with and …
KM Anderson, MW Schook, KL Goodrowe, WT Waddell… – Journal of the American …, 2018

Evidence for sex-specific reproductive senescence in monogamous cooperatively breeding red wolves; AM Sparkman, M Blois, J Adams, L Waits… – Behavioral Ecology and …, 2017 – Springer

Habitat use by adult red wolves, Canis rufus, in an agricultural landscape, North Carolina, USA: M Karlin, T Václavík, J Chadwick, R Meentemeyer – Mammal Study, 2016 – BioOne

Space Use and Habitat Selection by Resident and Transient Red Wolves (Canis rufus); JW Hinton, C Proctor, MJ Kelly, FT van Manen… – PloS one, 2016 –

A SURVEY OF DISEASES IN CAPTIVE RED WOLVES (CANIS RUFUS), 1997-2012; KE Seeley, MM Garner, WT Waddell… – Journal of Zoo and …, 2016 –

Investigation of captive red wolf ejaculate characteristics in relation to age and inbreeding; KM Lockyear, SE MacDonald, WT Waddell… – Theriogenology, 2016 – Elsevier

Mitochondrial DNA Variation in Southeastern Pre-Columbian Canids; KE Brzeski, MB DeBiasse, DR Rabon… – Journal of …, 2016 – Am Genetic Assoc

Describing a developing hybrid zone between red wolves and coyotes in eastern North Carolina, USA; JH Bohling, J Dellinger, JM McVey… – Evolutionary …, 2016 – Wiley Online Library

Managing hybridization of a recovering endangered species: The red wolf Canis rufus as a case study; EM Gese, FF Knowlton, JR Adams, K Beck… – Current …, 2015 –

Effects of anthropogenic mortality on Critically Endangered red wolf< Canis rufus breeding pairs: implications for red wolf recovery; JW Hinton, KE Brzeski, DR Rabon, MJ Chamberlain – Oryx, 2015 –

Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy in Two Red Wolf (Canis rufus) Pups; JL Gjeltema, RA MacLean, EB Cohen… – Case Reports in …, 2015 –

Using the “placeholder” concept to reduce genetic introgression of an endangered carnivore; EM Gese, PA Terletzky – Biological Conservation, 2015 – Elsevier

The challenges of red wolf conservation and the fate of an endangered species recovery program; DL Murray, G Bastille‐Rousseau, JR Adams… – Conservation …, 2015 – Wiley Online Library

Early and adult social environments have independent effects on individual fitness in a social vertebrate; V Berger, JF Lemaître, D Allainé… – … . R. Soc. B, 2015 –


From a howling wilderness to howling safaris: Science, policy and red wolves in the American south. Manganiello CJ. Journal of the History of Biology. 2009 May


Genetic evidence for a recent origin by hybridization of red wolves. MReich DE, Wayne RK, Goldstein DB. olecular Ecology. 199