- This is an article about the species. For topics that share the name, see Red Wolf (disambiguation).
The red wolf (Canis rufus or Canis lupus rufus) is a North American canid species that once roamed throughout the Southeastern United States. Based on fossil and archaeological evidence, the original red wolf range extended throughout the southeast, from the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, north to the Ohio River Valley and central Pennsylvania, and west to central Texas and southeastern Missouri. Historical habitats included forests, swamps, and coastal prairies. The red wolf is morphologically midway between grey wolves and coyotes, and recent genetic research indicates it may actually be a hybrid species between grey wolves and coyotes. The red wolf was thought to be extinct in the wild by 1980. 1987 saw a reintroduction in northeastern North Carolina through a captive breeding program and the animals are considered to be successfully breeding in the wild.
The red wolf pup begins life with a slate or dark gray pelt with auburn-tinged fur on its head. As it matures, this color changes color to a mixture of buff, tawny, cinnamon, and brown along the body and a black tipped tail; it often has black guard hairs too and sometimes presents with black or dark bars on its fore-legs. Black or melanistic individuals once occurred; such individuals were more common in Florida and in western areas. The pelt molts once annually in the winter. Its muzzle is white furred around the lips. The red wolf is generally intermediate in size between the coyote and the gray wolf. However, the disproportionately long legs and large ears are two obvious features that separate red wolves from coyotes and gray wolves. Its overall appearance is more slender and graceful looking than that of a grey wolf.
- Reich, D.E., R.K. Wayne, and D.B. Goldstein. (1999) Genetic evidence for a recent origin by hybridization of red wolves. Molecular Ecology 8:139-144.
- Esch, Mary. Study: Eastern wolves are hybrids with coyotes. AP News. Retrieved on 1 June 2011.
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.1997.Endangered Red Wolves. http://library.fws.gov/Pubs4/endangered_red_wolves.pdf:1-3.
- Alderon, David. Foxes, Wolves, and Wild Dogs of the World. London: Blandford. 1998.p117
- Nowak, R. 2003.Wolf Evolution and Taxonomy. ‘’In’’ Wolves, Behavior, Ecology and Conservation. Edited by Mech, D and Boitain, L.,University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press.
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