Are Red Wolves Smelly? The Odor Of The World’s Rarest Wolf 

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Published on September 25, 2022
Last Updated on October 11, 2023

There are very few sightings of a red wolf (Canis rufus ) in the wild. This canid species can only be found today in North Carolina and there are only a few of them left. It may be tough finding wild red wolves but it is much easier to track them—at least–through their scent. These animals produce odors that can be detected from great distances.

Like any other wolf species, red wolves heavily rely on sniffing and scent marking for their communication. There are a number of scent-producing glands found all over their body.

The scents they leave can sometimes make other animals, including humans, frown. Why? Because these wolves smell somewhat different than what we are accustomed to!

Join Floofmania in sniffing and learning about the red wolf’s odor and other REALLY interesting facts about their smell. 

What Do Red Wolves Smell Like?

Red wolves produce certain distinct odors that are unique to their species. The red wolf’s scent is described as a musky or spicy smell. Some people describe their scent to be similar to that of a fish. Others say a wolf’s scent is like nachos. Perhaps humans just don’t understand how to describe the smell!

Moreover, it is important to understand that the strength of the red wolf’s odor also depends on where the scent is produced. The animal has different scent glands in its body that produces chemicals known as pheromones

The Red Wolf’s Scent Glands

The parts of a red wolf’s body where scent glands are present include the following:

  • Skin – Scent glands are found all throughout the red wolf’s skin. The scent chemicals produced are spread across the areas where there is fur.
  • Anus – These sebaceous glands are located at the opening of their butt. The scent chemicals are released as the wolf poops.
  • Genitalia – The sex organs of both male and female wolves produce large amounts of pheromones during mating season. They also release these chemicals when peeing. 
  • Top of the tail – Also called the violet gland, this major gland releases chemicals to indicate the wolf’s mood and receptiveness to mating.
  • Areas between the toes – Using its paws in marking, the wolf releases scent chemicals when scratching the ground.

The chemicals act as a message between members of the same species. Let’s call it an identification card if you will.  

Fun Facts:

  • If you see a wolf sniffing its peers’ butts, it’s communicating with them.
  • Lifting and shaking the tail are forms of greetings. The wolf is inviting the other wolf to smell their butt to know more.
  • When you see a wolf tucking its tail, it doesn’t want others to know who they really are. This is common among submissive wolves.

Do Red Wolves Have A Bad Odor?

The red wolf’s scent is distinct compared to other animals. The wolf’s odor is not that bad either when compared to animals like the skunk and the zorrilla (striped polecat).

Don’t worry, a red wolf does not smell like a skunk’s butt. The odor that the canid produces is similar to those of bears and dogs—but just a little bit stronger

Can You Smell When A Red Wolf Is Near?

You cannot smell a red wolf that is hiding a few yards away. What you can smell is its stinky poop and urine. Its poop and urine are similar to that of dogs but smell more unpleasant. If you can’t identify if the litter and markings belong to the red wolf or another animal just by looking at it, maybe try sniffing

Meanwhile, red wolves can smell if another individual is in the vicinity. Their sharp sense of smell enables the animals to detect if another wolf, prey, or a human is nearby. They can even know if the stranger is a male or female or if it’s another animal by detecting the presence of pheromones.

Do Red Wolves Use Smells For Marking Territory?

Like all other members of the Canis genus, red wolves produce scents that they use for marking their territories. As a matter of fact, they take scent marking very seriously. Wolves are very protective of their territory and will readily fight off any intruders.

These animals mark their territories by using their poop, urine, and scent glands found between their toes. Territory marking is usually done at the borders of their territories as well as along common pathways used by the animals.

Every individual has a distinct scent that can be detected by other wolves. It can be assumed that the chemical composition of every red wolf’s scent is different than the others. The presence of scats and urine in an area is a message to other wolves that another wolf owns the territory.

An interesting behavior of red wolves is their ground scratching. One might think that the canid is just sharpening its claws or digging for something in the ground, but this behavior is also one of the red wolf’s ways of marking territory. While scratching the ground, the scent glands between the toes release pheromones. 

Do Male And Female Red Wolves Smell Differently?

Male and female red wolves smell differently from each other due to the effects of pheromones. And it’s not just males and females that smell different; each individual red wolf has its own calling card in the form of a unique smell.

The scents of these animals play a huge part in the attraction and compatibility (pair bonding) between the sexes during the mating season.  

The sense of smell is very important in the survival of the species. Male red wolves will find their life-long mate through scent detection. The female wolves, on the other hand, will base their decision of accepting the partnership-for-life proposal based on the scent of the males.

The strength of the pheromones is also assumed to be the basis of an individual’s dominance or hierarchical status in a pack. In the world of red wolves, the stronger the scents you produce, the more respect you get from other members of the group.

Is The Red Wolf’s Poop And Urine Very Stinky?

The red wolf’s poop and urine have a strong, pungent odor. The scent also lasts for a very long time—usually for more than a day. If you know how stinky your pet dog’s pee and poop are, the red wolf’s litter is even worse than that.

Will Red Wolf Pee and Scat Attract Other Red Wolves?

Yes, the pheromones are indicators of attractiveness and perhaps the sexiness of a red wolf. As there are a lot of these chemicals in their scat and pee, other red wolves will either be attracted or repulsed by the scents they detect.

How Can You Get Rid Of A Bad Red Wolf Smell From Your Property?

It’s highly unlikely that you’d ever have to worry about having your property smell like red wolves. The animal is close to extinction, after all, and extremely rare.

If it does happen, however, cleaning up a red wolf’s scent from your property is just the same as you’re cleaning up the scents left by your pet dog. 

The wolf’s scent may be stronger but it can easily be solved by: 

  • Pouring a bucket or two of water mixed with detergent soap
  • Follow it up by pouring a solution of at least a gallon of water with 2 cups of white vinegar
  • Sprinkling baking soda at the spot where the odor lingers.
  • You can then complete the task by spraying the area with a commercial deodorizer

Do Red Wolfs Like To Roll Around In Poop, Carcasses, Or Other Stinky Things?

Well, the red wolves themselves do not smell that bad and are actually tolerable but their taste for perfume can be disgusting. The canids love to roll over things that are very stinky. May it be poop, rotting fruits, and carcasses, the red wolf will surely lather the stink all over its body.

This wolf behavior is called scent-rolling or scent rub. When the wolf smells anything that is strong-smelling, it will get down and roll its body and coat itself with the scent. There are various theories on why the wolf does this.

Why Do Red Wolves Scent Rub?

The closest possible explanation for why wolves do scent rubs is to hide or disguise their scent from their prey. Some of the red wolf’s prey also have a keen sense of smell. “Cloaking” their scents allows the wolf to get closer to their next meal without getting detected. 

Some suggest that such strong, pungent, scents trigger the very sensitive sense of smell of the red wolf. The wolf probably finds the scents very interesting and wants to bring the odor wherever it goes.

Another theory says that the behavior is a means of bringing the scent to other members of the pack. The wolf will let them smell its new perfume, and then the other pack members will follow the trail to the source of the scent. 

Are Other Animals Scared Off When Red Wolf Scents Are Present?

In the wild, the use of scents plays an important role in distinguishing one animal from another. The sense of smell is used to detect when prey or predators like red wolves are around. 

Animals like deer, rats, mice, skunks, badgers, squirrels, and raccoons are among the red wolf’s diet. These animals will oftentimes scurry off whenever they sniff that those red wolves are present.

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.


  • 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.

    View all posts

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