The Red Wolf (Canis lupus rufus) is a North American canid subspecies which once roamed throughout the Southeastern United States and is a glacial period survivor of the Late Pleistocene epoch. Its natural range extended from Texas to Florida northward to New York. Historical habitats included forests, swamps, and coastal prairies, where it was an apex predator. The Red Wolf became extinct in the wild by 1980. A population of Red Wolf/Coyote hybrids has been successfully reintroduced to eastern North Carolina. Although this population has grown to over 100 animals, it is still highly endangered.
The Red Wolf has a brownish or cinnamon pelt, with grey and black shading on the back and tail. Its muzzle is white furred around the lips. Black specimens have been recorded, but these are probably extinct. The Red Wolf is generally intermediate in size between the Coyote and the Gray Wolf. Males can reach up to five feet in length and 80 lbs. in weight. Like the Gray Wolf, it has almond-shaped eyes, a broad muzzle and a wide nosepad, though like the Coyote, its ears are proportionately larger. The Red Wolf has a deeper profile, longer and broader head than the coyote, and has a less prominent ruff than the Gray Wolf. It moults once annually every winter.
The Red Wolf is more resistant to heartworm infestations than most other canids. Restored Red Wolf populations in North Carolina tested positive for heartworm, though the infestation has not been shown to be a major mortality source. The dental formula is:
The Red Wolf typically reaches maturity at the age of 22 months, though specimens reproducing at the age of 10 months have been recorded. The mating season takes place in February and March with a gestation period of 61–63 days. Pups are usually born in March or April, and number about 1 to 10 babies per litter (though two to five pups are common). The breeding pair typically produce one litter annually. Females may establish several dens during the denning season. The pups are often moved from one den to another.