Red Wolf (Canis rufus)

Fun Fact: The wolf is a symbol of guardianship,  loyalty, and spirit.

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Canidae

Genus: Canis

Species: rufus


Body and Skeletal Structure:wolf-body-structureredwolf_bw

wolf-skeletal-structure
A wolf’s skeleton has very strong bones, and is well adapted for its lifestyle.

Description:

Size:

Red wolves usually range from  3.1 to 4 ft (95~120 cm) for head-to-body length, while their tail length is usually between 2.1 to 2.9 ft (64~88.4 cm). Height-wise, they’re normally between 2.2 to 2.7 ft (67.1~82.3 cm). As for their weight, it’s between 40 to 90 lbs (18-41 kg). The males tend to be a bit larger and heavier than the females though.

Fun Fact: The red wolf is a smaller and a more slender cousin of the gray wolf, and is also larger than a coyote.

Fur:

The red wolf typically has a fur coat that is cinnamon or tawny red with grey and black touches. There are also some brownish hues in fur as well. Unlike the rest of the coat though, the wolf’s underbelly & chest is somewhat cream-colored and thicker. This underbelly and chest fur acts as insulation to prevent heat from escaping during the harsh winters. The wolf’s back tends to be dark-colored, and its bushy tail has a black tip at the end. The red wolf normally has thin white to cream colored legs as well.

Fun Fact: The red wolf is one of the world’s rarest canids.

Diet:

Red wolves are carnivores, meaning they primarily eat meat. They often eat small animals such as rabbits, raccoons, rodents, lizards, birds and more. However, they do prefer to hunt deer (usually white-tailed deer), since its their favorite type of prey animal. On occasion though, red wolves have been found to eat a few insects and berries.

Typical Lifespan:

Most red wolves live from about 5 to 12 years in the wild. In captivity, they can live to be about 15 years of age.


Reproduction:

Mating Season: Late Winter (In the northern area of the western hemisphere)

Gestation Period: About 60-63 days

Litter Size: 2-8 pups (Average Amount: 5 pups)


Communication and Behavior:

Communication allows wolves to care for and feed their young, defend their territory, bring down large prey successfully, and more. Wolves have a complex communication system ranging from barks and whines to growls and howls. They also communicate through body language and scent marking.  Most of the time, communication is used to reinforce the social hierarchy of the pack.

  • When a wolf wants show its submissiveness to  another, it will usually crouch, whimper, tuck its tail in, lick the other wolf’s mouth, or roll over on its back.
  • When a wolf is challenging another, it’ll usually growl or lay its ears back on its head.
  • When a wolf is playful, it tends to “dance” and bow.
  • When a wolf wants to signal a warning, it’ll typically bark.
  • When a wolf wants to communicate from a long distance, pull the pack back together, or to warn strangers away, the wolf will typically howl.

Red wolves are typically nocturnal (and semi-crepuscular), intelligent, kind, and sociable creatures that live in groups called packs. Sometimes these wolves will hunt with the pack, but often hunt alone  when catching small animals. The amount of wolves in a pack can vary depending on available prey populations, but they usually consist of 5-8 members. Packs are led by the alpha male and/or female. The alpha pairs are usually the biological parents of the pack, since it usually consists of their offspring, and they tend to form pair-bonds for life. Speaking of offspring, they are cared for by the pack until they are about 10 months old since that’s usually when they can hunt on their own. Once these wolves are older, some may leave the pack to simply join others, or to breed. Red wolves can also be highly territorial and will guard their territory from intrusion from other packs in the area. Wolves are also considered to be keystone predators, since they help maintain a balanced ecosystem, and are apex predators.


Habitat and Range:

The red wolf lives in different habitats within the eastern area of North Carolina. It builds its den in the dense forest, in the hollows of huge trees, canals, and in the deep burrows. The red wolf prefers marshlands and swampy areas, but they do also live among forests, coastal prairies, and bushlands.

red-wolf-range


Conservation Status:critically-endangered

The red wolf was originally declared extinct in the wild in 1980. They had suffered as a result of habitat loss and overhunting. They were trapped and shot, since people believed they posed a threat to livestock and game. Hybridization (cross breeding) was a problem as well. Fortunately though, a captive breeding program allowed the species to be reintroduced. Four pairs of red wolves were released into the eastern area of  North Carolina starting in 1987. As of 2003, the free-ranging red wolf population numbered around 100 individuals in 20 family groups. Currently, the North Californian population is doing well, which is an amazing triumph considering that the species was once extinct in the wild. At this moment, the species is fully protected within its current range.


Resources:

Red Wolf | Wikipedia

Canis rufus | The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Red wolf (Canis rufus) | ARKive

Fact Sheet – Red Wolf | Defenders of Wildlife

Red Wolf | A-Z Animals

Red Wolf Facts | Buzzle

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