The red wolf (Canis rufus) is a very rare species endemic only to North America. Through the years the number of red wolves in the wild has been dwindling despite efforts to restore their place in their native habitat.
These members of the Canidae family are currently only found in North Carolina despite the fact that they were widely distributed all across the continent just decades ago.
Join Floofmania in discovering the red wolf’s habitat and its impact on the ecosystem. Through this article, we aim to spread information about the ways and lifestyles of this endangered species.
What Kind Of Habitat Do Red Wolves Prefer?
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The red wolf is known to be a habitat generalist. This means that they can be found in a wide array of habitats—historically that is. The canid is noted to have occupied forests, swamps, bushlands, marshes, and coastal prairies.
The only known wild population of red wolves can be found today in the eastern Albemarle Peninsula of North Carolina. There are only 8 known wild red wolves remaining in the area in 2022.
Since the species was declared extinct in the wild in 1980, only a few captive red wolves remained. The last red wolves held in captivity were bred hoping the offspring could be reintroduced into the wild someday.
In 1987, scientists and conservationists released a number of red wolves in the Alligator River refuge. This was followed by failed attempts in the Smoky Mountain National Park in 1992. The probable cause of the failures of repopulation attempts is the lack of prey available in the wild and fatal encounters with humans.
The red wolf is a resilient creature that can thrive in diverse habitats as long as food is available for sustenance. Living in a certain habitat is not enough for a group of animals to survive. They still need food for their sustenance—lots of it.
Do Red Wolves Need To Live Near Water?
Red wolves do not need open water to survive. However, they can mostly be found in areas where there is water for one reason: these are the areas where their prey usually hang out.
The carnivores regularly prey on rodents and other small animals. Red wolves need an average of 2 to 5 pounds of meat on a daily basis. They also get their water requirements from their prey.
The declining prey population, along with habitat loss have greatly affected the growth of the red wolf population and at the same time limiting their range to a small area on the coastal shores of North Carolina.
What Kind Of Food Sources Do Red Wolves Need?
Red wolves are carnivorous and they are pure meat-eaters. Having said that, the red wolves have a wide variety of food preferences and sizes. Their favorite animals to hunt are rabbits, smaller rodents, and raccoons.
On occasion, the small pack of red wolves will switch on to opportunistic mode and jump onto larger, sick animals like deer and coyotes. The wolves will not hesitate to take a bite on decomposing carrion as well.
Eating small animals is a treat for red wolves. They prefer hunting small-sized animals because they are easy to catch and they can consume them in one all at once. Wolves typically eat all parts of their prey, including the bones and hair!
These nocturnal animals can cover up to 20 miles per day to find their next meal. When feeding, red wolves usually start with their prey’s organs which are rich in nutrients and high in water content.
Like most animals, red wolves will also take a lap or two of water from water sources. This happens when prey is scarce or the weather gets too hot for the animals to handle.
Why Do Red Wolves Need A Den?
Red wolves need a den to rest and rear their pups. The den usually serves as the home for the breeding male and female. When their offspring arrives, the den will now serve as the nursery for the pups.
Common places where red wolves make their den are the following:
- Small caves.
- Tree stumps.
- Hollow trees.
- Stream banks.
- Sand knolls.
- Enlarged burrows of other animals.
Dens are usually used by generations of wolves especially when food is abundant in an area. If prey becomes scarce in the area, the pack of red wolves will look for a new den.
Can Red Wolves Adapt To Different Environments?
As resilient as they are, red wolves can adapt to a variety of environments. They can live in deserts, wetlands, and even in very cold areas. There have also been reports in which red wolves wander around human-populated areas in search of food.
The red wolf is well-suited to live in forests, wetlands, and prairies in southeast North America. They can easily find the resources they may need to survive like food and shelter. As long as prey is present in an area, the red wolf will surely mark the area and claim it as its territory.
Fun Fact: Do you know that there was a time when red wolves lived in the cold areas of New York and Canada? The animals adapted to the cold by growing thicker fur during the winter. The thick coat was then shed at the start of spring.
What Impact Do Red Wolves Have On The Environment?
Red wolves are considered to be top predators. Being on the top of the food chain, the red wolf plays a part in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. The red wolf’s presence keeps the entire food web healthy.
The canids help in controlling the population of rodents and other small animals. Curbing their prey’s population benefits the other members of the ecosystem that is further down the food chain like the insects and plants.
Author: Jomvie Reyes
Jomvie has been a writer for over 10 years and animals and wildlife are among his favorite topics. Learning and writing about the vast and diverse wildlife from all over the world, is more of a hobby than a job for him. Jomvie loves to watch and observe these remarkable species up close and personal.