What is Your Favorite Animal?

wolf species

Red Wolves

Red Wolf Pups Playing!

How Can You Not Fall in Love?

Do you want to lose these precious animals forever? We could if we don’t help them now.

Red Wolves May Become Extinct in the Wild, Again?

A few important things to know about red wolves:

The most critically endangered canid with less than 300 red wolves left on our planet.

Less than 40 left in the wild (in the entire world).

Less than 250 in captive breeding facilities.

The only wild population lives in North Carolina.

May become extinct (again) shortly in the wild.

No reports of ever attacking a human, despite fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood.


red wolf facts

Two red wolf pups sleeping. Photo Ryan Nordsven/USFWS

How We Fell in Love with Red Wolves

The red wolf is one of the most endangered animals in the world with only 25-40 left in the wild and just over 200 in captivity. On a visit to the NC Zoo in 2017, we met our first red wolves with Chris Lasher, one of the world’s foremost experts on red wolves and the guy in charge of the zoo’s red wolves. With 22 red wolves at the NC Zoo, including 3 newborn pups, we fell in love at first sight. Much like each other and the hellbender, but we digress.

And we learned, the zoo has the second largest pack of red wolves in captivity which is critical for conservation of the species. Red wolves are shy, mate for life and form small family packs around a breeding pair. And to think they only live wild in our home state of North Carolina.  Admittedly, we didn’t know many red wolf facts until meeting these very cool wolves at the NC Zoo.

And red wolves get a bad rap just being a wolf. We think of the “big bad wolf” of fairy tales, but there has never been a documented case of a red wolf attacking a person. They mostly eat small deer and other smaller mammals including rabbits and raccoons. Plus they eat nutria, a highly invasive non-native rodent that is currently decimating flora in the wetlands of many states.

red wolf sculpture

Rebecca Bose, Wolf Conservation Center

Extinct Once and Maybe, Once Again:

Red wolves were declared extinct in the wild in 1980 when the last 14 purebred wolves were captured and brought into captivity by the US Fish & Wildlife Services (FWS). These 14 were used to help reestablish the species as part of a national breeding program. Over 40 zoos and wildlife centers currently cooperate in trying to save the species.

In 1987, the red wolf was reintroduced back into the wild in Eastern North Carolina. At first, the program appeared successful.


The wolf populations climbed to about one hundred but then the program was halted by FWS and is being reevaluated. Encroachment of private lands and failure of the program to meet projected goals were 2 of the reasons mentioned to stop the program. In the meantime, the existing wild red wolves are in danger of being killed by gunshot, car collisions, loss of habitat, or interbreeding with coyotes. At this point, it looks like nobody is really watching out for the wolves. But how can you not love these guys? Especially when you hear these little guys(gals) practicing their howling!


The end result may well be the red wolf becomes extinct in the wild for the second time. Only time will tell whether this iconic American animal will no longer exist in the wild as one of the few animals endemic to our country. We hope not, but the fate of the red wolf lies in the hands of FWS. At least there is a robust captive breeding program keeping the species alive until…..

Why are Red Wolves Important?

Of course, one of the obvious reasons wolves are important is once they are lost, they are lost forever. Short of cloning and other weird, unnatural ways of preserving a species, you can’t bring them back. Red wolves, as apex predators, also preserve the environment in which they live by maintaining the health of the ecosystem. Predators keep unhealthy animals in check and help prevent overpopulations of smaller animals. They also keep coyotes away when their population is at sustainable levels. Plus, they are just so darn cute.

red wolf facts

Red wolves mate for life. Photo Rebecca Bose, Wolf Conservation Center

What Can We Do?

To learn more red wolf facts, visit red wolves on exhibit at the NC Zoo, the WNC Nature Center or one of the 40 other breeding facilities found throughout the US. For a list of the captive facilities, click.

Also, you can read a great article by Christian Hunt, Defenders of Wildlife,  “The Red Wolf of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow-Wild…”. It is an in-depth synopsis of what is happening to the red wolf in the wild.

One of the best actions you can take is telling everyone you know about the plight of this wonderful animal. Most folks seem surprised to learn there are red wolves in the wild, in North Carolina no less.

wolf sculpture

Make a donation to the following organizations and designate your money for red wolf conservation or symbolically adopt a wolf:

Defenders of Wildlife

NC Zoo Save a species program

Endangered Wolf Center, Adopt a wolf

International Wolf Center

Wolf Conservation Center

Western North Carolina Nature Center Adopt a red wolf

Using Art to Bring Awareness

In addition to speaking up for these lovely creatures that truly are an American treasure, what else are we doing? Well, creating art, of course!

Dale has just finished a red wolf stone sculpture, “Just Settling In”, to increase awareness of this reclusive, majestic animal. We are having a limited edition casting of the sculpture made to share with red wolf conservation centers and others. Stay tuned for more information.

Red wolf facts

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