Field Notes

wolf species

3-28-19 A Red Wolf is a Red Wolf!

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Two red wolf pups playing.

3-28-19 The Academy of Sciences announces a red wolf is a distinct wolf species and is also distinct from grey wolves and coyotes. Read their summary here. Maybe this will finally settle the raging debate as to whether red wolves are a critically endangered canid or merely a hybrid of wolf & coyote.

Why is this important? And who cares?

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A red wolf. Photo: B. Bertel/USFWS

Well, a couple of quick red wolf stats:

First, where do wild red wolves live?

Maybe you think the answer is all over the US. But you would be wrong. The only place in the whole wide world this wolf species lives in the wild is North Carolina, our home state.

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Photo: Rebecca Bose/Wolf Conservation Center

How many red wolves are there?

Thousands? Millions? Well, again the answer may shock you. Less than 40 (and yes, that is a real number) live in the wild and about 230 live in captive programs. So, do the math. This is fewer than 300 red wolves left on this planet. If you have ever seen one, in the wild or captivity, consider yourself lucky and honored.

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USFWS employee checking 2 red wolf pups

The only place to see them in the wild is Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern North Carolina. And to see them in a captive breeding program, you can visit 1 of 44 zoos and wildlife centers throughout the United States.

Red wolf pups playing

We are fortunate to have 6 captive facilities in North Carolina including the WNC Nature Center which is right in our own backyard and houses 2 red wolves. The NC Zoo in Asheboro. which has over 20 wolves, is the 2nd largest red wolf breeding facility in the world.

And elsewhere in the country, you can probably find a facility near you. Check out the Wolf Conservation Center in Salem, NY or the International Wolf Center in Ely, MN which both have several wolf species including red wolves.

We support all 4 organizations. You can help them, and in turn red wolves, by becoming a member, volunteering or making a donation to one of them in honor of red wolves.

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

But is a red wolf really a wolf species?

The answer is yes! Back in 2018, Congress asked US Fish & Wildlife Services to get an independent study to determine if a red wolf was a hybrid or a distinct species. If they turned out to be a hybrid, they would no longer need to be protected by The Endangered Species Act. The results were published in late March and the red wolf is a distinct species and should be protected by law.

So back to the question. Why should we all care?

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Two red wolf pups sleeping. Photo: Ryan Nordsven/USFWS

The red wolf is the most critically endangered canid in the world. They could soon go extinct without our assistance and protection. As one of the most majestic animals we have ever seen, they are one of the last iconic American native species.

Plus as an apex predator, they help keep our ecosystem in balance. Which in this day and time, is pretty darn important.

Do we really want them to go extinct on our watch?

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“Just Settling In” by Dale Weiler

Our answer is NO!

So here is what we are doing. Dale has just completed an alabaster sculpture of a red wolf mom and her pup, “Just Settling In”. To read our blog on its creation and learn more about how you can help, click here.

We are having a limited edition casting made of the sculpture. It will then be offered to various captive red wolf facilities and other conservation organizations to help raise awareness and funding. If you have ideas for placement, let us know at loti@weilerwoods.com.

To learn more about red wolves, check out our fact sheet here.

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