The red wolf struggles to survive in an ever-changing world | Chroniclers
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Two species of wolves exist in North America: the red wolf and the gray wolf. They belong to the canine family, along with the coyote, jackal, domestic dog, and dingo.
Some dogs like the lone wolf can interbreed if a partner is not available. For example, wolves, coyotes, and domestic dogs can produce viable and fertile wolfdogs, coywolves, and coydogs.
In taxonomy, the red wolf is controversial. Research suggests that the red wolf is a unique species. Yet some believe it to be a subspecies of the gray wolf or a hybrid of the gray wolf and coyote. (The dog’s evolution from the gray wolf is also disputed. A contradictory study claims they share a common ancestor in an extinct wolf line.)
Habitats of the red wolf can be seen in swamps, forests and coastal meadows. Dens may exist in thick vegetation, hollow logs or even culverts. This animal is fiercely territorial when it keeps its range.
Social, it generally forms a family pack of about five to eight members, generally related. The unit accommodates a breeding pair (typically monogamous alpha male and female) and their offspring of varying ages. Annual litters can give from three to 12 young. Wild wolves typically survive six to
Nocturnal and carnivorous, the red wolf generally hunts alone or with its companion small mammals such as rabbits. When chasing large prey, such as deer, the family pack may congregate. This wolf eats two to five pounds of food per day, now up to 80 pounds. So he could travel 20 miles. He’s digitigrade, walking on his toes. In pursuit, short gusts can reach 30 miles
Communication takes place through barking, growling, yapping and, of course, haunting howls. In open ground, howls travel 10 miles. Strong wind or rain discourage howling because the sound is obstructed. (Dog breeds with close ties to wolves, like huskies and malamutes, also howl.)
Why do people assume a wolf howls on a full moon? As he looks up to project the sound further, he seems to be howling at the moon. In addition, in the past, people traveled at night, usually during the full moon for safety reasons; inadvertently, they assumed the wolf only howls on a full moon. In fact, a wolf howls even during the invisible phase of the new moon.
Historically, the red wolf roamed from Texas to Florida via Pennsylvania. Several factors favored the severe demise of this animal: fear of its association with the devil – reinforced by folklore, its threat to livestock, its attractiveness as game, habitat loss and vehicle deaths. In reality, the “fanged” wolf, sometimes hostile in the past, is elusive and avoids humans.
Captive breeding was initiated in 1973. The few remaining red wolves were rounded up, and in 1980 this species was declared extinct in the wild. Breeding facilities, including zoos, have produced around 200 wolves. Breeding sites, such as St. Vincent Island in Florida, have helped reintroduction efforts into the North Carolina Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, the number of stray wolves in North Carolina has dropped to around 50. Therefore, the survival of the species is questionable. (In Florida, the extinct black wolf once roamed the shores of the Indian River Lagoon.)
Although the critically endangered red wolf is a legally protected species, crossbreeding with the coyote could threaten the uniqueness of the species and affect restoration. Hopefully, a persistent recovery program (not a single one suspended for review) will allow the striking red wolf, decked out in his reddish tawny coat, to howl forever.