A native to the southeastern United States, once ranging as far west as Missouri, by 1980 the red wolf was declared extinct in the wild, with only a handful of red wolves in captivity shouldering the burden of saving their species.
Saving the American Red Wolf will require a sustainable captive population, a renewed commitment to keeping this animal in the wild, and a targeted messaging plan to provide information about the species to key stakeholders. Captive breeding programs are critical to saving red wolves from disappearing entirely.
More than 30 facilities currently participate in the red wolf captive breeding program, but this population is itself not sustainable due to space limitations on the number of red wolves that can be held at these facilities. It is vital that this situation be resolved because a wild population will need continuous infusion of animals from the captive population for a long period of time.
According to Sarah Long of the Population Management Center, “Population modeling using current conditions, without releases from captivity or improvements to Northeast North Carolina vital rates, predicts extinction of the only remaining wild population of red wolves, typically within 37 years, but in some iterations as soon as 8 years.” This will require large, secure habitats, basic husbandry, vaccinations, and monitoring. To enable future reintroduction efforts, a spectrum of management intensity will be required, some with near-wild management.