Red Wolf

(Canis rufus)

Habitat and Distribution: Before hunting and habitat loss decimated their populations, red wolves inhabited mountains, lowland forests, and wetlands throughout the eastern and southeastern United States. Conservation programs are currently managing a wild red wolf population in northeastern North Carolina.

Size: 4-5 feet long nose to tail; 26 inches tall at the shoulder; 45-80 pounds

Wild Diet: Raccoons, white-tailed deer, rabbits, small rodents, nutria, and carrion

Predators: Human activity (e.g. gunshot and vehicles) is the main cause of mortality in red wolves.

Reproduction: Red wolves are monogamous, breeding once a year from about late January to mid-March. Females typically deliver a litter of 4-6 pups after a 2-month gestation period. Pups are born with closed eyes and they are completely dependent on their pack for protection and food. They are raised in dens such as tree hollows, sand knolls, grass depressions or along stream banks. When pups are around 18 months old they are old may leave their pack to form mating pairs of their own.

Behavior: They live alone or in small packs consisting of a mated pair and their offspring. Older offspring can also stay with the pack for an extended period of time. Packs hunt cooperatively and help raise young pups.


IUCN Status: Critically Endangered

By 1980, red wolves were declared extinct in the wild, and 14 remaining individuals were placed in a breeding program here at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. With valiant conservation efforts, red wolves started making a comeback by 1987. Today, about 50 red wolves exist in the wild and about 200 live in zoos and breeding facilities across the country. Hunting and habitat alteration have historically posed the greatest threats to wild red wolf populations.

Find out what you can do to make a difference and help secure a future for red wolves!

Did you know?

  • Red wolves are one of the most endangered animals in the world.
  • Six red wolf pups were born here at Point Defiance on Mother's Day weekend in 2012.
  • In 2006, two pups born in Tacoma were placed in the den of a wild female and her pups. These two thrived under her care and went on to raise families of their own. Fostering pups to wild dens has become a useful management tool for red wolf conservation.